Cape Petrel (Daption capense)

The food of the Cape Pigeon is as varied as its voracity is increadible. It may be called a glutton, in the human meaning of the word, not only because of its appetite but equally because each Cape Pigeon seems to dislike to see another eating as much as it enjoys the process itself!......even when their numbers had been temporarily reduced to four or five, along a line of blubber stretching a ship's length, there was still never room for these few to eat without battling.....Bennett has well said that one whale carcass is too small a morsel for two Cape Pigeons to divide in peace!

Robert Cushman Murphy (1936) Oceanic Birds of South America.


The genus Daption is distinguished by the specialized bill structure, which differs from other fulmars in being depressed and enclosing a small distendable pouch of bear, vascularized skin.

Two subspecies: Daption capense capense (coastal Antarctica and offshore islands) and Daption capense australe (islands off New Zealand).

One of the most familiar southern ocean seabirds, this species goes under many vernacular names including: Cape Pigeon, Cape Fulmar, Pintado, Pied Petrel, Spotted Petrel and Black-and-white Petrel

Cape Petrel. Antarctica, Jan 1999. Photograph copyright of Ron Saldino©, 1999.


Relatively simple due to unique checkered black and white dorsal plumage. The intensity of the markings change with age and state of wear.

Where and When

Breeds within the Antarctic cold-water zone. Ranges almost to the equator in the Humbolt Current off western South America.

Often associated with human activity, coming so close that they can be caught from ships with a hand-net. There is a record of a marked bird following a ship for more than 2400 km. Murphy reports sailor keeping captured birds in a tub aboard ship in an effort to fatten them for later eating. He quotes one sailor telling Hutton in the mid-1800's that he released six captives in the Engish Channel.

Cape Petrel. Antarctica, Jan 1999. Photograph copyright of Ron Saldino©, 1999.

Photographs on the web

Rearview of adult taking flight On Jeff Blincow's site.

Nice series. Taken off Hillarys, western Australia by Frank O'Connor.

Adult on nest From the Ardery Island Project Homepage.

View of ventral side in flight. Taken in Antarctica by Ruud and Kitty Kampf


McCaskie, G. (1970) Cape Petrel off Monterey. California Birds, 1: p39-40.

Paz-Barreto, D. (1997) [On the reproductive biology of the Cape Pigeon (Daption capense) at Laurie Island, South Orkneys.] El Hornero 14(4): 179--183.


Many thanks to Ron Saldino for allowing use of his photographs.

Copyright © 2002 All rights reserved. Angus Wilson
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