Northern Giant-petrel (Macronectes halli)

"The giant petrel is the sea bird that comes to mind whenever my thoughts wander to the Southern Ocean. Southern ships and giant petrels are natural partners, and I never fail to think of one without the other. For days on end in the windy latitudes, these are the birds a person will see circling or doggedly tailing a moving ship far at sea, and the ones that will be swimming in the still waters beside the ship at harbor town waterfronts."

David F. Parmelee in Bird Island in Antarctic Waters: The adventures of an artist/ornithologist on a lonely outcrop in the far South Atlantic (1980).


Northern Giant-petrel. Notice the diagnostic red spot on the tip of the upper mandible. South Georgia or Antarctica, Jan 1999. Photograph copyright of Ron Saldino©, 1999.

Currently monotypic having recently been split from Southern Giant Petrel.
Also known as Hall's Giant-Petrel


George Watson (1975) described Giant Petrel vocalizations as "nauseating retching noises, loud hissing, vicious bill snapping". David Parmelee (1980) wrote that the, "awful retching sounds rising from their bellies and the gory head drippings make the feeding spectacle seem revolting. Giant petrels are so adept at bad manners that one inevitably accepts the humerous side of their behavior. No question, they are the clowns of the southern seas."

Where and When

Photographs on the web

Adult in flight Nice shot of upper surface taken by Greg Lasley in January in the Scotia Sea, Antarctica. Red tip to the bill clearly visible.
On water By Tony Palliser taken off Portland Australia in September. Red/orange tip to the bill clearly visible.



Many thanks to Ron Saldino for generously allowing me to use his delightful photograph.

Copyright © 1999 All rights reserved. Angus Wilson

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