Southern Giant Petrel

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The southern giant petrel (Macronectes giganteus), known locally as the ‘Stinker’, can be seen throughout the year around the Falkland coasts. The Falkland Islands is the world’s most important breeding location for this impressive petrel, holding a substantial proportion of the world population.

Much of the population occurs at ten or so main breeding sites, but many smaller groups occur on offshore islands and undistrubed coastlines. The majority of sites around the south of Falkland Sound and to the west of West Falkland. The largest colony is on Sandy Cay, in the Elephant Cays Group.

Southern giant petrels are large birds, similar in size to the black–browed albatross, with a wingspan of 200 cm (6ft 6ins); however they appear more stiff-winged in flight. Adults have mainly white heads and whitish necks, which contrast with grey-brown body and wings.

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There is a pale phase where the bird is almost completely white with a few dark spots on the plumage. It is closely related to the northern giant petrel, but instead of a pinkish-yellow bill, has a cream-coloured bill with greenish tip.

They breed in colonies on open coastal slopes and low flat ground, returning to the same colony each year in September. A large single white egg is laid in late October. Incubation lasts 58-60 days during which birds are very sensitive to disturbance

When the white chick is born it is brooded for two to three weeks and it fledges at 104–132 days in late March/early April. They take seven years to complete the changes to adult plumage and do not breed on average until their tenth year.

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The species is generally a scavenger making use of carcasses of whales, seals, penguins and livestock, as well as fisheries discards at fishing boats, though it will take live seabirds as well as marine prey items.

The southern giant petrel is a species listed on the Agreement for the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels.

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Black-browed Albatross

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White-chinned Petrel

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Birds

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Marine Management

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