Least Storm Petrel
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Seabirds

Least Storm Petrel

Halocyptena microsoma

Distribution

Tropical to warm temperate latitudes of the eastern Pacific Ocean

Ecosystem/Habitat

Nest on rocky shores; feed in open ocean (pelagic)

Feeding Habits

Foraging predator

Conservation Status

Least Concern

Taxonomy

Order Procellariiformes (albatrosses, petrels, and relatives), Family Hydrobatidae (storm petrels)

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The least storm petrel is a very small seabird that stands no more than six inches (15 cm) tall and weighs only a few ounces. This species feeds widely in the eastern Pacific Ocean and nests on islands in the Gulf of California, Mexico.

Least storm petrels are excellent fliers and are known for their behavior of “dancing” along the sea surface, hunting for small pelagic prey. They primarily eat small crustaceans and other plankton and feed by scooping up their prey without landing on the water or getting their feathers wet. In this manner, they look like they are walking on water. Least storm petrels spend the majority of their time at sea, on the wing, and rarely rest. Their open ocean feeding grounds extend as far south as Peru. Like all petrels, least storm petrels drink seawater and have a specialized gland on their upper beaks used to excrete salt, preventing them from becoming dehydrated.

Like all seabirds, least storm petrels nest on land. All individuals of this species return to islands in the Gulf of California, each year, to nest in large colonies. They reproduce via internal fertilization, and females lay fertilized eggs in small cracks along rocky shores. Males and females both care for the eggs and chicks. Though least storm petrels have few natural predators at sea or on land, they are susceptible to predation by invasive cats, rats, or dogs when nesting.

Least storm petrels are quite common and are currently a species of least conservation concern. Populations are decreasing, however, and like all seabirds in the Gulf of California, they may be threatened by changing food webs in that basin.

 

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Additional Resources:

IUCN Red List

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