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.