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This storm-petrel is strictly nocturnal at the breeding sites to avoid predation by gulls and skuas, and will even avoid coming to land on clear moonlit nights. Like most petrels, its walking ability is limited to a short shuffle to the burrow.
The Leach's Petrel is a small bird at 18-21 cm in length with a 43-48 cm wingspan, but is distinctly larger than the European Storm-petrel, which it superficially resembles with its dark plumage and white rump. It has a fluttering flight, and patters on the water surface as it picks planktonic food items from the ocean surface.
It can be distinguished from the European Storm-petrel and the Wilson's Storm-petrel by its larger size, forked tail, different rump pattern and longer and flight behaviour. Some north-eastern Pacific Leach's Petrels show all-dark rumps.
It is strictly pelagic outside the breeding season, and this, together with its remote breeding sites, makes Leach's Petrel a difficult bird to see from land. Only in storms might this species be pushed into headlands.
Unlike Storm-petrel, it does not follow ships. In Europe, the best chance of seeing this species is in September in Liverpool Bay between north Wales and England. Strong north-westerlies funnel migrating Leach's Petrels into this bay.
This bird is named after the British zoologist William Elford Leach. Average lifespan for this bird is unusually long and can be as much as 20 years.
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