Gadfly petrel

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Gadfly petrels
Pterodroma hasitataPCCA20070623-3608B.jpg
Black-capped petrel
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Procellariiformes
Family: Procellariidae
Genus: Pterodroma
Bonaparte, 1856

About 35, see text

1 genus and 33 species

The gadfly petrels are seabirds in the bird order Procellariiformes. The gadfly petrels are named for their speedy weaving flight, as if evading horseflies. The flight action is also reflected in the genus name Pterodroma, from Ancient Greek pteron, "wing" and dromos, "runner".[1]

These medium to large petrels feed on food items picked from the ocean surface.

The short, sturdy bills of the Pterodroma species in this group, about 35 altogether, are adapted for soft prey taken at the surface; they have twisted intestines for digesting marine animals which have unusual biochemistries.

Their complex wing and face marking are probably for interspecific recognition.

These birds nest in colonies on islands and are pelagic when not breeding. One white egg is laid usually in a burrow or on open ground. They are nocturnal at the breeding colonies.

While generally wide-ranging, most Pterodroma species are confined to a single ocean basin (e.g. Atlantic), and vagrancy is not as common amongst Pterodromas as it is in some other seabird species (c.f. the Storm-Petrels Hydrobatidae).

Species in taxonomic order[edit]

The taxonomy of the gadfly petrels is being refined at the moment. Several genera have been split off over time, as they are closer to the procellarine and Puffinus shearwaters. Some subspecies have been raised to full species rank. The arrangement given here is traditional, but annotates the changes proposed by Austin (1998)[2] and Bretagnolle et al. (1998).[3] For the current taxonomy, see also Brooke (2004).[4]

A Pleistocene fossil from Aldabra in the Indian Ocean was described as Pterodroma kurodai. Biogeographically, it could belong to any genus.


  1. ^ Jobling, James A (2010). The Helm Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names. London: Christopher Helm. p. 322. ISBN 978-1-4081-2501-4. 
  2. ^ Austin, Jeremy J. (1996). "Molecular Phylogenetics of Puffinus Shearwaters: Preliminary Evidence from Mitochondrial Cytochrome b Gene Sequences". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 6 (1): 77–88. doi:10.1006/mpev.1996.0060. PMID 8812308. 
  3. ^ Bretagnolle, Vincent; Pasquet, Eric; Bretagnolle, V.; Attié, C.; Pasquet, E. (1998). "Cytochrome-B evidence for validity and phylogenetic relationships of Pseudobulweria and Bulweria (Procellariidae)" (PDF). Auk. 115 (1): 188–195. doi:10.2307/4089123. 
  4. ^ Brooke, M. (2004): Albatrosses and Petrels Across the World. Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK. ISBN 0-19-850125-0
  5. ^ Proposed Splits (PS) and Newly Described Species (NEW) that are candidates for addition to the IOC World List.
  6. ^ Onley, Derek and Paul Scofield (2007) Albatrosses, Petrels and Shearwaters of the World Helm Field Guides ISBN 978-0-7136-4332-9
  7. ^ Bretagnolle, Vincent; Shirihai, Hadoram. "A new taxon of Collared Petrel Pterodroma brevipes from the Banks Islands, Vanuatu" (PDF). Bulletin of the British Ornithologists' Club. 130 (4): 286.