Snowy sheathbill

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Snowy sheathbill
Chionis blanc - Pale-faced Sheathbill.jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Charadriiformes
Family: Chionididae
Genus: Chionis
Species: C. albus
Binomial name
Chionis albus
Gmelin, 1789
  • Chionis alba Gmelin, 1789
  • Vaginalis alba [2] Gmelin, 1789

The snowy sheathbill (Chionis albus), also known as the greater sheathbill, pale-faced sheathbill, and paddy, is one of two species of sheathbill. It is usually found on the ground. It is the only land bird native to the Antarctic continent.[3]


A snowy sheathbill is about 380–410 mm (15–16 in) long, with a wingspan of 760–800 mm (30–31 in). It is pure white except for its pink, warty face; its Latin name translates to "snow white".[4]


The snowy sheathbill lives in Antarctica, the Scotia Arc, the South Orkneys, and South Georgia. Snowy sheathbills living very far south migrate north in winter.[3]


The snowy sheathbill does not have webbed feet. It finds its food on the land. It is an omnivore, a scavenger, and a kleptoparasite. It steals krill and fish from penguins and sometimes eats their eggs and down-covered chicks. It also eats carrion, animal feces, and, where available, human waste. It has been known to eat tapeworms that have been living in a chinstrap penguin's intestine.[4]



  1. ^ BirdLife International (2012). "Chionis albus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013. 
  2. ^ The Internet Bird Collection. "Pale-faced Sheathbill (Chionis alba)". 
  3. ^ a b Briggs, Mike; Briggs, Peggy (2004). The Encyclopedia of World Wildlife. Parragon Publishing. ISBN 1-4054-3679-4. 
  4. ^ a b Lynch, Wayne (September 26, 2001). The Scoop on Poop. Fifth House Books. ISBN 1-894004-59-0. 

External links[edit]

  • Neotropical Birds Online A very thorough treatment of the Snowy Sheathbill's distribution, life history, behavior and conservation challenges.