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Friday, July 16, 2010

Petrels & Shearwaters

The oceans which surround the Falkland Islands are particularly rich in petrels and shearwaters (Procellaridae) which are among the most successful of all the world’s bird families.

Sooty Shearwater Puffinus griseus
The smallest of the four featured species, the Sooty Shearwater is 40-46 cm long with a wingspan of around a metre. It has the typically “shearing” flight of the genus, dipping from side to side on stiff wings with few wing beats and wingtips almost touching the water. Using both wings and feet for propulsion, Puffinus griseus can dive to an astonishing depth of 67 metres in pursuit of fish and squid although more commonly they take surface food.

White-chinned Petrel Procellaria a aequinoctialis
The White-chinned Petrel is a large and heavily-built shearwater-like species with a body length of 55cm and wings spanning almost 1.5 metres. In strong sunlight the plumage appears dark brown. Most birds have a small white patch beneath the bill. Flight is powerful and deliberate, with slow wing beats and frequent long glides. At sea it is easily confused with the larger Giant Petrel as well as the similar Westland and Black Petrels.

Southern Giant Petrel Macronectes giganteus
Whichever way you look at it, the Giant Petrel is an impressive creature. The size of a small albatross and by far the largest of all the petrels, its bulky, hump-backed body measures up to a metre in length and its wingspan is double that. “Stinkers”, as they are popularly known, can weigh as much as an oven-ready turkey.

Greater Shearwater Puffinus gravis
Greater Shearwaters are one of the most common Atlantic seabirds with a body length of 50cm and a wingspan of over a metre.Their flight is powerful and direct with straight, stiff wings dipping from side to side almost touching the water. They feed on fish, squid, and crustaceans taken both from the surface and by making shallow dives.

Title: Petrels & Shearwaters
Date of Issue: 8 July 2010
Country: Falkland Islands
Denominations: 27p, 70p, 95p, £1,15