Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
It is strictly pelagic outside the breeding season, and this, together with its remote breeding sites, makes Wilson's Petrel a difficult bird to see from land. Only in severe storms might this species be pushed into headlands.
It is common off eastern North America in the northern summer and the seasonal abundance of this bird in suitable European waters has been revealed through pelagic boat trips, most notably in the area of the Isles of Scilly, Great Britain. This may be the world's commonest seabird.
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 Wilson's Petrel is a small bird, 16-18.5 cm in length with a 38-42 cm wingspan. It is slightly larger than the European Storm-petrel. It is essentially dark brown in all plumages, except for white rump. It differs from the that species by its pale bar on the upper wing, plain underwings and longer legs.
It has a more direct gliding flight than Storm Petrel, but shares the habit of pattering on the water surface as it picks planktonic food items from the ocean surface, though with more upraised wings. Like European Storm-petrel, it is highly gregarious, and will also follow ships.
This bird is named after the Scottish-American ornithologist Alexander Wilson.
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