Tropical to warm temperate latitudes of the eastern Pacific Ocean
Nest on rocky shores; feed in open ocean (pelagic)
Order Procellariiformes (albatrosses, petrels, and relatives), Family Hydrobatidae (storm petrels)
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.
Oceana joined forces with Sailors for the Sea, an ocean conservation organization dedicated to educating and engaging the world’s boating community. Sailors for the Sea developed the KELP (Kids Environmental Lesson Plans) program to create the next generation of ocean stewards. Click here or below to download hands-on marine science activities for kids.