Spectacled Petrel (Procellaria conspicillata)


Closely related to the White-chinned Petrel, this species is appropriately known as the Ringeye by Tristan Islanders by virtue of its striking white facial markings. As a breeder, it is restricted to Inaccessible Island within the Tristan da Cunha group, positioned in the South Atlantic almost midway between South America and Southern Africa. The main reason for full species status are the differences in vocalizations Spectacled Petrels produce a deeper (and apparantly more harmonious) groans and rattles than White-chinned Petrel (Ryan, 1998). Play-back experiments suggest this might be an important isolating mechanism. In addition, Spectacled Petrels are slight smaller and breed a few months earlier than White-chinned Petrel.


Not well understood. Has distinctive spectacles at all ages, even in downy chick. Care must be taken because White-chinned Petrels sometimes have small areas of white on the head, especially on the nape.

Close-up of a Spectacled Petrel (Procellaria conspicillata). Photographed off southeastern Brazil, on the shelf between Santos and Rio de Janeiro, where they are common attending longliners. Photograph copyright of Fabio Olmos©, 2000.

Where and When

Breeds only on Inaccessible Island in Tristan da Cunha group. Disperses in a broad band across the South Atlantic between 25 deg. and 40 deg. South, the majority of the population going to waters off southern Brazil where they are common around fishing boats in summer. Significant mortality in long-line fishing, comprising up to 8% total deaths in tuna and swordfish fishery off southern Brazil and Uruguay (Ryan, 1999).
Interestingly, once occured off Amsterdam Island in the Indian Ocean but not seen anymore. May have been a breeding species but extripated by introduction of pigs (Ryan, 1999).

Photographs on the web

Detailed view of heads of an adult and chick and three adults on water. Photos by Peter Ryan and Fabio Olmos.


Many thanks to Fabio Olmos for allowing me to use his photograph.


Camphuysen C.J. & J. van der Meer (2000) Notes on the distribution of the Spectacled Petrel Procellaria conspicillata in the South Atlantic. Atlantic Seabirds 2: 13-18.
Peter Ryan (1999) Spectacled Petrel, Procellaria conspicillata. World Birdwatch 21(1): p24-25.
Peter Ryan (1998) The taxonomic and conservation status of the Spectacled Petrel Spectacled Petrel, Procellaria conspicillata. Bird Conservation International 8: 223-235.
Enticott, J. W. and O'Connell, M. O. (1985) The distribution of the spectacled form of the White-chinned Petrel (Procellaria aequinoctiallis conspicillata) in the South Atlantic Ocean. British Antarctic Survey Bulletin 66: p83-86.
Olmos, F. (1997) Seabirds attending bottom longline fishing off southwestern Brazil. Ibis 139: 685-691.
Fraser, M. W., Ryan, P. G., and Watkins, B. P. (1988) The seabirds of Inaccessible Island, South Atlantic Ocean. Cormorant 16: 7-33.

Copyright © 2002 All rights reserved. Angus Wilson
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