Return of Bird of the Week: Southern Giant Petrel


A warning: this one is a little gruesome, and there are photos that some may find offensive. You’ve been warned.

Southern Giant Petrel on a Nest, South Georgia Island, Southern Ocean

Southern Giant Petrel on a Nest, South Georgia Island, Southern Ocean

This is  Southern Giant Petrel, by any measure a big bird. More than three feet long and with a wingspan of nearly seven feet, this 11 pound bird is another top-tier predator in the Southern Ocean. Note the naricorns, the tube-like structure on top of the bill. It’s part of the mechanism these birds use to expel excess salt. They don’t need fresh water; they can live on salt water.

Nesting Southern Giant Petrel, South Georgia Island, Southern Ocean

Nesting Southern Giant Petrel, South Georgia Island, Southern Ocean

The bird’s suspicious stare is for a Brown Skua considering raiding the Petrel’s nest. Two Skuas were making a coordinated attack, one from behind WC and one from the left. They were unsuccessful.

Now the gruesome stuff.

At Elsehul Harbor, on South Georgia Island, a Southern Giant Petrel found a stillborn Southern Fur Seal Pup.

Petrel Breakfast, Elsehul Harbor, South Georgia Island

Petrel Breakfast, Elsehul Harbor, South Georgia Island

But where one Southern Giant Petrel has found a meal, there will very quickly be two.

Then There Were To

Then There Were Two

Almost as quickly, there was a full-fledged (sorry) mob of the big birds in a noisy squabble over who was going to get a meal.

Food Riot at Elsehul Harbor

Food Riot at Elsehul Harbor

In the chaos that followed, there were no decent photo opportunities.

Unlike a lot of other Southern Ocean endemics, the Southern Giant Petrel populations are in decent shape. Long line fishing seems to be the biggest threat, killing 4,000-8,000 birds a year. So far, those losses have not impacted population levels.

Southern Giant Petrel Following the Ship, Southern Ocean

Southern Giant Petrel Following the Ship, Southern Ocean

Advertisements