Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels

Breakfast in bed: an incubating Northern Giant Petrel feeds on a Salvin's Prion at Marion Island

Chris Jones (FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology, University of Cape Town, South Africa) and colleagues have published a short note in the journal Antarctic Science on what appears to be the first record of a procellariiform seabird feeding on a prey item at its nest whilst still incubating.

An extract from the short note follows:

“Pelagic seabirds often nest on islands that are far from productive foraging areas.  The Procellariiformes (petrels, shearwaters and albatrosses) are among the longest-ranging seabirds; they have several adaptations that permit them to efficiently utilize distant foraging areas and fast for long periods during incubation (Phillips & Hamer 1999).  Giant petrels (Macronectes spp.) are large surface-nesting procellariiforms.  They feed both by direct predation and by scavenging carrion, and they are the largest avian predator-scavengers in the Southern Ocean. Among procellariiform seabirds, one partner forages while their mate remains on the nest to incubate their single egg (Warham 1990).  Northern giant petrels (Macronectes halli) have incubation shifts lasting up to 17 days (Cooper et al. 2001). In general, incubating procellariiform seabirds do not feed during their shift (Warham 1990). We report the first case to our knowledge of a procellariiform seabird, a northern giant petrel, actively feeding at its nest whilst incubating.


An incubating Northern Giant Petrel feeds on a Salvin's Prion on Marion Island, photograph from Chris Jones

The note is dedicated to the memory of David Walton, Antarctic Science’s inaugural and long-standing Chief Editor, who passed away suddenly on 12 February 2019 at the age of 73 (click here).


Jones, C.W., Risi, M.M. & Cooper, J. 2019.  An incubating northern giant petrel actively feeds on a Salvin's prion.  Antarctic Science doi:10.1017/S0954102019000415.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 15 November 2019