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White-chinned Petrel Procellaria aequinoctialis
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This species is classified as Vulnerable because of suspected rapid declines, although almost no reliable estimates of historical populations exist. Very high rates of incidental mortality in longline fisheries have been recorded in recent years; the probability that these circumstances will continue and its susceptibility to predation and the degradation of breeding habitat indicate that a rapid and on-going population decline is likely. An updated assessment of the population on South Georgia is needed in order to fully assess the overall trend.

Taxonomic source(s)
Brooke, M. de L. 2004. Albatrosses and Petrels Across the World. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
Christidis, L.; Boles, W. E. 2008. Systematics and taxonomy of Australian birds. CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood, Australia.
del Hoyo, J.; Collar, N. J.; Christie, D. A.; Elliott, A.; Fishpool, L. D. C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International.
SACC. 2006. A classification of the bird species of South America. Available at: #

Taxonomic note
Procellaria aequinoctialis (Sibley and Monroe 1990, 1993) has been split into P. aequinoctialis and P. conspicillata following Brooke (2004).

55 cm. Large, black petrel with pale bill. Sooty-black with variable amount of white on throat and chin. Underside of primaries may appear silvery. Horn or yellow bill, with black between nostrils and bill tip. Similar spp. Largest all-dark shearwater or petrel. Bulkier than Westland Petrel P. westlandica and Black Petrel P. parkinsoni and lacks black bill tip. Spectacled Petrel P. conspicillata has diagnostic white eye-rings and dark tip to bill. Voice Rattles at colony. Hints Powerful flight intersperses slow wingbeats and glides.

Distribution and population
This species breeds on South Georgia (Georgias del Sur), Prince Edward Islands (South Africa), Crozet Islands, Kerguelen Islands (French Southern Territories), Auckland, Campbell and Antipodes Islands (New Zealand), and in small numbers in the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas). Recently revised population estimates give a global population of approximately three million individuals. This is based on estimates of 773,150 breeding pairs on South Georgia in 2007 (ACAP 2012), 23,600 breeding pairs (9,800 to 36,800) on Crozet (Barbraud et al. in litt. 2008), 186,000-297,000 pairs on the Kerguelen Islands (Barbraud et al. 2009), at least c.100,000 on Disappointment (Auckland) in 1988 (ACAP 2012), 10,000 on Campbell in 1985 (ACAP 2012) and 58,725 on the Antipodes in 2011 (ACAP 2012). At least 55 pairs breed on the Falkland Islands, on Kidney Island, New Island and Bottom Island (Reid et al. 2007). A survey in 2009 estimated the number of occupied nests to be 24,000 on Marion Island (20,000-28,000) and 9,000-15,000 on Prince Edward Island (Ryan et al. 2012). On Bird Island (South Georgia), the population has apparently decreased by 28% over 20 years (Berrow et al. 2000), while in Prydz Bay (Antarctica), the number of birds at sea decreased by 86% during 1981-1993 (Woehler 1996). The species forages north to the subtropics and south to the pack-ice edge off Antarctica (Berrow et al. 2000, Catard et al. 2000, Phillips et al. 2006), and is distributed widely in all southern oceans (Croxall et al. 1984).

Population justification
A global population of 1,200,000 breeding pairs, down from 1,430,000 pairs in the 1980s, is estimated based on figures from 1985-2011. This equates to an estimated global population of c.3 million mature individuals, based on the estimated number of breeding pairs extrapolated according to a ratio from Brooke (2004).

Trend justification
Globally, data on trends are still lacking for a number of colonies. A decline is inferred from a drop in burrow occupancy of 28% over 20 years on Bird Island, South Georgia (Berrow et al. 2000), and declines of 86% during 1981-1993 at sea in Prydz Bay, Antarctica (Woehler 1996). Population monitoring on Marion Island between 1996-1997 and 1999-2000 recorded a 14.5% per annum decrease in the population. Data from the Crozet archipelago indicate a 37% decline in breeding pairs between 1983 and 2004, based on population models and field estimates from two surveys (Barbraud et al. in litt. 2008). Data from at-sea surveys suggest a 35% decline in the Southern Indian Ocean during 1981-2007 (Péron et al. 2010a). Data from fisheries and a population model suggest that the population on the Kerguelen Islands may be in decline (Barbraud et al. 2009). No population trend estimates are available from the Auckland, Campbell, Antipodes or Prince Edward Islands, representing approximately 17% of the global population.

Even when colonies on Auckland, Campbell, Antipodes, Prince Edward and Kerguelen are assumed to be stable, based on an ongoing -1.6% decline per year on South Georgia (ACAP 2009) and declines in the smaller population on Crozet, the overall global population is projected to decline by 52% over three generations from 1980 (C. Small and W. Misiak in litt. 2013). Martin et al. (2009) estimate a higher decline rate for South Georgia (-1.9% per annum), and if the population on Kerguelen was suspected to be declining then the rate of overall population decline could be higher. An updated assessment of the population on South Georgia is needed in order to fully assess the overall trend (ACAP Secretariat in litt. 2013).

It is a burrow-nesting annual breeder, laying in mid-October to mid-November (ACAP 2009). Chicks usually fledge in late April (Barbraud et al. 2009). Outside the chick-rearing period, White-chinned Petrels breeding on South Georgia travel to Patagonian Shelf waters to feed (Phillips et al. 2006). Satellite tracking and ring recoveries from birds on Crozet Islands show that they spend the non-breeding season off the coasts of South Africa and Namibia (Barbraud in litt. 2008). Individuals from the Kerguelen Islands also winter off the coasts of South Africa and Namibia over the Benguela Current (Péron et al. 2010a)

It feeds on cephalopods, crustaceans and fish (Berrow et al. 1999, Catard et al. 2000, Delord et al. 2010) and fisheries processing waste or discarded longline baits. Cephalopods were found to comprise the greatest component of the diet in one study (91% occurrence, 92% number, 90% mass) (Colabuono and Vooren 2007). Birds range widely when searching for food resources, travelling up to 8,000 km on feeding forays in the breeding season (Berrow et al. 2000, Catard et al. 2000, Phillips et al. 2006, Delord et al. 2010a). Individuals breeding at the Crozet and Kerguelen islands display a bimodal foraging strategy, conducting either short trips to the surrounding shelf or long trips ranging from subtropical waters in the north to Antarctic waters in the south (Catard et al. 2000). Individuals breeding at the Kerguelen Islands target the seasonal ice zone where melting sea ice is gradually broken into floes and forage almost exclusively in open water (Péron et al. 2010b).

This species constitutes the majority of bird bycatch in Southern Ocean longline fisheries. It is thought that fishery-related mortality exerts a greater pressure on the Indian Ocean population than the Atlantic Ocean population (Ryan et al. 2012). It is one of the commonest species attending longline vessels off south-east Brazil during winter (Olmos 1997, Bugoni et al. 2008) and off Uruguay (Jiménez et al. 2009), and constitutes virtually all the recorded seabird bycatch from the Namibian hake fishery (Barnes et al. 1997, Petersen et al. 2007). In South Africa, White-chinned Petrels constitute 10% and 55% of the bycatch in pelagic and demersal longline fisheries respectively (Petersen et al. 2007). Prior to the introduction of bird streamer lines as a vessel permit condition in August 2006, approximately, 10% of the 18,000 birds killed annually in the South African hake trawl fishery were White-chinned Petrels (Watkins et al. 2007), with the species attending 99% of trawls (Hill 2007). In the Indian Ocean, between 2001 and 2003 the legal longline fishery for Patagonian toothfish Dissostichus eleginoides killed c. 12,400 P. aequinoctialis per year (Delord et al. 2005). Following the introduction of mitigation measures this figure dropped to approximately 2,500 birds in the 2005-2006 season (CCAMLR 2006), and to 740 birds in the 2008-2009 season (CCAMLR 2010). In addition, an estimated 31,000-111,000 and 50,000-89,000 seabirds in 1997 and 1998 respectively, c.60% of which were P. aequinoctialis, were thought to be killed by IUU vessels (CCAMLR 1997, 1998). In recent years (2006) this figure has fallen to 4,583 seabirds in total (CCAMLR 2006).

It is the second most common species caught in the Argentinean longline fleet, with an average capture rate for the period 1999-2003 of 0.014 ± 0.09 individuals per 1,000 hooks (Laich and Favero 2007). During autumn-winter most captures took place in the north of the Patagonian Shelf, whereas in spring-summer most were to the south, between 45-50 degrees South (Laich and Favero 2007). In the Australian Fishing Zone, more than 800 are potentially killed annually (Gales et al. 1998) and, in New Zealand between 2003 and 2005, 14.5% of all the seabirds caught in trawl and longline fisheries and returned for autopsy were P. aequinoctialis (Baird and Smith 2007). Barbraud et al. (2009) estimated that any additional source of mortality that approaches 31,000 individuals would result in a population decline at the Kerguelen Islands. Although only 30% of this number are killed in local waters, and even fewer are now killed due to the implementation of mitigation measures, more than 31,900 White-chinned Petrels are estimated to be killed each year by demersal longline fishing in the Benguela Current marine ecosystem where individuals from the Kerguelen Islands spend the winter. This may mean that the population at the Kerguelen Islands is decreasing, although the additional presence of non-breeders from the Crozet Islands at the Benguela Current means that further research is required to confirm the population decline (Barbraud et al. 2009). Dillingham and Fletcher (2011) estimated that the potential for the world population to sustain additional mortality was 15,000 individuals.

Rats (Rattus rattus and R. norvegicus) are significant predators at some breeding sites, such as Crozet (Jones et al. 2008) and South Georgia (Clarke et al. 2012), and cats predate nests at Kerguelen (Barbraud in litt. 2008), Cochons Island (Crozets) and Marion Island (Carboneras et al. 2014). Predation by skuas (Catharacta) occurs at some sites, however the effects are not significant (Carboneras et al. 2014). At South Georgia, breeding habitat is extensively degraded owing to erosion by expanding populations of Antarctic fur seal Arctocephalus gazella (Berrow et al. 2000). Introduced reindeer Rangifer tarandus also degrade breeding habitat on South Georgia (Poncet 2007). Human exploitation is thought to be responsible for low numbers breeding on Tristan da Cunha and extinction on the Chatham Islands (Carboneras et al. 2014). Although no adverse effects have been proven until recently, there are now reports of relatively high frequencies of plastic ingestion (Ryan 2008, Colabuono et al. 2009), as well as the occurrence of persistent organic pollutants (Colabuono et al. 2012) in this species. 

Conservation and Research Actions Underway
CMS Appendix II ACAP Annex 1. Population monitoring and foraging ecology studies are being undertaken at South Georgia, Crozet, Prince Edward and Kerguelen (Poncet 2007). Several breeding sites are in protected areas.

Conservation and Research Actions Proposed

Continue and extend monitoring studies. Where feasible, eliminate alien predators and reindeer from breeding islands. Promote adoption of best-practice mitigation measures in all fisheries within the species's range, including via intergovernmental mechanisms such as ACAP, FAO, and Regional Fisheries Management Organisations such as CCAMLR. Implement plans to remove rats and reindeer from South Georgia (R. Phillips in litt. 2012). Develop and implement plans to remove pigs from Auckland Island, rats, cats and reindeer from Kerguelen, and rats from Ile de la Possession, Crozet (R. Phillips in litt. 2012).

Related state of the world's birds case studies

ACAP. 2009. ACAP Species Assessment: White-chinned Petrel Procellaria aequinoctialis. Available at: #

Baird, S. J.; Smith. M. H. 2007. Incidental capture of seabirds species in commercial fisheries in New Zealand waters, 2003-2004 and 2004-2005.

Barbraud, C.; Delord, K.; Marteau, C.; Weimerskirch, H. 2009. Estimates of population size of White-chinned Petrels and Grey Petrels at Kerguelen Islands and sensitivity to fisheries. Animal Conservation 12(3): 258-265.

Barnes, K.; Ryan, P. G.; Boix-Hansen, C. 1997. The impact of hake Merluccius spp. longline fishery off South Africa on Procellariiform seabirds. Biological Conservation 82: 227-234.

Berrow, S. D.; Croxall, J. P.; Grant, S. D. 2000. Status of White-chinned Petrels Procellaria aequinoctialis Linnaeus 1758, at Bird Island, South Georgia. Antarctic Science 12: 399-405.

Berrow, S. D.; Wood, A. G.; Prince, P. A. 2000. Foraging location and range of White-chinned Petrels Procellaria aequinoctialis breeding in the South Atlantic. Journal of Avian Biology 31: 303-311.

BirdLife International. 2004. Birds in Europe: population estimates, trends and conservation status. BirdLife International, Cambridge, U.K.

Brooke, M. de L. 2004. Albatrosses and Petrels Across the World. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Bugoni, L.; Mancini, P. L.; Monteiro, D. S.; Nascimento, L.; Neves, T. S. 2008. Seabird bycatch in the Brazilian pelagic online fishery and a review of capture rates in the southwestern Atlantic ocean. Endangered Species Research 5(2/3): 137-147.

Carboneras, C., Jutglar, F., de Juana, E. and Kirwan, G.M. 2014. White-chinned Petrel (Procellaria aequinoctialis). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. and de Juana, E. (eds), Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive, Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.

Catard, A, Weimerskirch, H.; Cherel, Y. 2000. Exploitation of distant Antarctic waters and close shelf-break waters by white-chinned petrels rearing chicks. Marine Ecology Progress Series 194: 249-261.

CCAMLR. 1997. Report of the XVI meeting of the Scientific Committee.

CCAMLR. 1998. Report of the XVII meeting of the Scientific Committee.

CCAMLR. 2006. Scientific Committee for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources. Report of the 25th meeting of the Scientific Committee.

CCAMLR. 2010. Scientific Committee for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources. Report of the 28th meeting of the Scientific Committee.

Clarke, A., Croxall, J.P., Poncet, S., Martin, A.R. and Burton, R. 2012. Important Bird Areas - South Georgia. British Birds 105: 118-144.

Colabuono, F. I.; Barquete, V.; Domingues, B. S.; Montone, R. C. 2009. Plastic ingestion by Procellariiformes in Southern Brazill. Marine Pollution Bulletin 58: 93-96.

Colabuono, F. I.; Taniguchi, S.; Montone, R. C. 2012. Organochlorine contaminants in albatrosses and petrels during migration in South Atlantic Ocean. Chemosphere 86: 701-708.

Colabuono, F. I.; Vooren, C. M. 2007. Diet of Black-browed Thalassarche melanophrys and Atlantic Yellow-nosed T. chlororhynchos Albatrosses and White-chinned Procellaria aequinoctialis and Spectacled P. conspicillata Petrels off southern Brazil. Marine Ornithology 35: 9-20.

Croxall, J. P.; Prince, P. A.; Hunter, I.; McInnes, S. J.; Copestake, P. G. 1984. Seabirds of the Antarctic Peninsula, islands of the Scotia Sea, and Antarctic continent between 80ºW and 20ºW: their status and conservation. In: Croxall, J.P.; Evans, P.G.H.; Schreiber, R.W. (ed.), Status and conservation of the world's seabirds, pp. 637-666. International Council for Bird Preservation, Cambridge, U.K.

Delord, K.; Cotté, C.; Péron, C.; Marteau, C.; Pruvost, P.; Gasco, N.; Duhamel, G.; Cherel, Y.; Weimerskirch, H. 2010. At-sea distribution and diet of an endangered top predator : relationship between white-chinned petrels and commercial longline fisheries. Marine Ecology Progress Series 13: 1-16.

Delord, K.; Gasko, N. W.; Weimerskirch, H.; Barbraud, C.; Micol, T. 2005. Seabird mortality in the Patagonian toothfish longline fishery around Crozet and Kerguelen Islands, 2001-2003. CCAMLR Science 12: 53-80.

Dillingham, P. W.; Fletcher, D. 2011.. Potential biological removal of albatrosses and petrels with minimal demographic information. Biological Conservation 144: 1885-1894.

Gales, R.; Brothers, N.; Reid, T. 1998. Seabird mortality in the Japanese tuna longline fishery around Australia, 1988-1995. Biological Conservation 86: 37-56.

Hill, H. 2006. Patterns of seabird attendance at commercial trawlers targeting hake Merluccius spp. off South Africa: Implications for conservation. MSc thesis. Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology, University of Cape Town.

IUCN. 2015. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015-4. Available at: (Accessed: 19 November 2015).

Jiménez, S.; Domingo, A.; Brazeiro, A. 2009. Seabird bycatch in the Southwest Atlantic: interaction with the Uruguayan pelagic longline fishery . Polar Biology 32(2): 187-196.

Jones, H.P., Tershy, B.R., Zavaleta, E.S., Croll, D.A., Keitt, B.S., Finkelstein, M.E. and Howald, G.R. 2008. Severity of the effects of invasive rats on seabirds: a global review. Conservation Biology 22(1): 16-26.

Jouventin, P.; Stahl, J. -C.; Weimerskirch, H.; Mougin, J. -L. 1984. The seabirds of the French subantarctic islands and Adélie Land, their status and conservation. In: Croxall, J.P.; Evans, P.G.H.; Schreiber, R.W. (ed.), Status and conservation of the world's seabirds, pp. 609-625. International Council for Bird Preservation, Cambridge, U.K.

Laich, A. G.; Favero, M. 2007. Spatio-temporal variation in mortality rates of White-chinned Petrels Procellaria aequinoctialis interacting with longliners in the south-west Atlantic. Bird Conservation International 17(4): 359-366.

Martin, A. R.; Poncet, S.; Barbraud, C.; Foster, E.; Fretwell, P.; Rothery, R. 2009. The White-chinned Petrel (Procellaria aequinoctialis) on South Georgia: population size, distribution and global significance. Polar Biology 32: 655-661.

Nel, D. C.; Ryan, P. G.; Crawford, R. J. M.; Cooper, J.; Huyser, O. 2002. Population trends of albatrosses and petrels at sub-Antarctic Marion Island. Polar Biology 25: 81-89.

Nel, D. C.; Ryan, P. G.; Watkins, B. P. 2002. Seabird mortality in the Patagonian Toothfish longline fishery around the Prince Edward Islands. Antarctic Science 14: 151-161.

Olmos, F. 1997. Seabirds attending bottom long-line fishing off southeastern Brazil. Ibis 139: 685-691.

Péron, C.; Authier, M.; Barbraud, C.; Delord, K.; Besson, D.; Weimerskirch, H. 2010. Interdecadal changes in at-sea distribution and abundance of subantarctic seabirds along a latitudinal gradient in the Southern Indian Ocean. Global Change Biology 16: 1895-1909.

Péron, C.; Delord, K.; Phillips, R. A.; Charbonnier, Y.; Marteau, C.; Louzao, M.; Weimerskirch, H. 2010. Seasonal variation in oceanographic habitat and behaviour of white-chinned petrels Procellaria aequinoctialis from Kerguelen Island. Marine Ecology Progress Series 416: 267-284.

Petersen, S.; Nel, D.; Omardien, A. 2007. Towards an ecosystem approach to longline fisheries in the Benfuela: an assessment of impacts on seabirds, sea turtles and sharks.

Phillips, R. A.; Silk, J. R. D.; Croxall, J. P.; Afanasyev, V. 2006. Year-round distribution of white-chinned petrels from South Georgia: Relationships with oceanography and fisheries. Biological Conservation 129: 336-347.

Poncet, S. 2007. South Georgia ACAP petrel survey 2005-07.

Reid, T. A.; Lecoq, M.; Catry, P. 2007. The White-chinned Petrel Procellaria aequinoctialis population of the Falkland Islands. Marine Ornithology 35: 57-60.

Ryan, P. G. 2008. Seabirds indicate changes in the composition of plastic litter in the Atlantic and south-western Indian Oceans. Marine Pollution Bulletin 56: 1406-1409.

Ryan, P., Dilley, B. and Jones, M. 2012. The distribution and abundance of white-chinned petrels (Procellaria aequinoctialis) breeding at the sub-Antarctic Prince Edward Islands. Polar Biology 35(12): 1851-1859.

Taylor, G. A. 2000. Action plan for seabird conservation in New Zealand. Department of Conservation, Wellington.

Watkins, B. P.; Petersen, S. L.; Ryan, P. G. 2007. Interactions between seabirds and deep-water hake trawl gear: an assessment of impacts in South African waters.

Weimerskirch, H.; Zotier, R.; Jouventin, P. 1989. The avifauna of the Kerguelen Islands. Emu 89: 15-29.

Woehler, E. J. 1996. Concurrent decreases in five species of Southern Ocean seabirds in Prydz Bay. Polar Biology 16: 379-382.

Further web sources of information
Additional information is available on the distribution of the White-chinned Petrel from the Global Procellariiform Tracking Database (

Australian Govt - Action Plan for Australian Birds 2000 - Recovery Outline

Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species

Search for photos and videos, and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection

Text account compilers
Black, A., Butchart, S., Calvert, R., Martin, R, Small, C., Taylor, J., Anderson, O. & Ashpole, J

Barbraud, C., Bugoni, L., Colabuono, F., Cooper, J., Croxall, J., Martin, T., Phillips, R., Robertson, C., Taylor, G.A., Makhado, A., Hirst, P., Misiak, W., Small, C. & ACAP Secretariat

IUCN Red List evaluators
Symes, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Procellaria aequinoctialis. Downloaded from on 24/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 24/10/2016.

This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife

To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.

Additional resources for this species

ARKive species - White-chinned petrel (Procellaria aequinoctialis) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Vulnerable
Family Procellariidae (Petrels, Shearwaters)
Species name author Linnaeus, 1758
Population size 3000000 mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 44,800,000 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species