Bird GuideNorthern Storm-PetrelsLeach's Storm-Petrel

At a Glance

A small dark seabird that flies low over the water with erratic, bounding wingbeats. Unlike Wilson's Storm-Petrel, it seldom follows ships. Nests on islands off both coasts of North America, most commonly off eastern Canada. Silent and usually solitary at sea, it becomes very vocal when visiting its nesting islands at night, filling the darkness with spooky chattering, trilling, and sputtering cries.
Gull-like Birds, Storm-Petrels
Coasts and Shorelines, Open Ocean
Alaska and The North, California, Eastern Canada, Florida, Mid Atlantic, New England, Northwest, Southeast, Western Canada
Direct Flight, Erratic, Flap/Glide, Hovering, Rapid Wingbeats

Range & Identification

Migration & Range Maps

Movements not well known. Majority of birds in both Atlantic and Pacific apparently move south to spend winter months in tropical seas, although there are some winter reports at northerly latitudes.


8-9" (20-23 cm). Fairly long angled wings, forked tail. The only white-rumped storm-petrel usually seen off Pacific Coast (but some there have dark rumps). In Atlantic, larger and longer-winged than Wilson's Storm-Petrel, with much more erratic flight, bounding about like a nighthawk.
About the size of a Robin
Black, Brown, White
Wing Shape
Long, Pointed, Tapered
Tail Shape
Forked, Notched, Square-tipped

Songs and Calls

A variety of trills, screams, and cooing notes.
Call Pattern
Falling, Flat, Rising
Call Type
Rattle, Raucous, Scream, Whistle


Open ocean; nesting colonies in turf on offshore islands. Widespread at sea, concentrating around upwellings and areas where cold and warm currents meet. Forages over continental shelf but also far out to sea; off Pacific Coast, generally seen farther offshore than other storm-petrels. Nests on islands with soil for nesting burrows.



One. White, some with band of purplish dots toward large end. Incubation is by both sexes, 38-46 days.


Both parents feed young, by regurgitation, visiting at night. Feeding rate declines as young matures. Period from hatching to young bird's departure from nest is about 9-10 weeks.

Feeding Behavior

Forages mostly by hovering or skimming low over water and taking items from surface. Seldom sits on water to feed. May feed by day or night. Sometimes associated with feeding whales or seals.


Mostly crustaceans. Feeds mainly on small crustaceans, including euphausiid shrimp, amphipods, copepods, larval stages of spiny lobster; also small squid, possibly some small fish. Scavenges at slicks of oil and fat on sea surface.


First breeds at age of 4 or 5 years. Nests in colonies on islands, coming ashore only at night. Nest: Site is in burrow under grass, rocks, or tree roots; burrow is usually 1-3' long, sometimes more than 5'. Male digs burrow, mostly using feet. Several burrow entrances may be very close together, or several nests may be in side branches of one tunnel. May also use natural holes and crevices at times. Nest chamber usually lined with leaves, grass.

Climate Vulnerability

Conservation Status

Total population probably in the millions, but thought to have declined in recent decades. On nesting islands, vulnerable to disturbance by predators, especially introduced mammals such as rats.

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