SPECIES: Fregetta grallaria — White-bellied Storm Petrel
The White-bellied Storm Petrel is a small seabird, and in Australia, the only place it breeds is on offshore islands in the Lord Howe Island group. Characterised by a fine black bill with a tubenose, they also have toes that do not usually project beyond their square cut tail. As the name suggests, the upper parts of their plumage is dark and the underparts are light.
The White-bellied Storm Petrel will very rarely make a visit to land, unless it happens to be near a breeding colony. Their natural habitat is quite simply open sea, even skimming across the water and dipping to catch their food - a small crustacean or squid that has caught their eye. Usually silent as they fly, they quite often make a pattering on the water's surface with their legs, as seen in this photo. Because they spend so much time out at sea, very little else is known about their behaviour.
An estimated 1,000 breeding pairs nest in the Lord Howe Island group, however they are now extinct on the main land. Their biggest threats include commercial fishing, marine pollution, habitat loss and invasive species - namely the domestic cat and the black rat.
FAME has committed to guard the paradise of Lord Howe Island and the species endemic to the Island, of which the White-bellied Storm Petrel is but one. Our project, in conjuction with the Lord Howe Island Board and the NSW Government will help increase the number and breeding success of a range of woodhens and seabirds endemic to Lord Howe Island. For more info or to make a donation, visit the project page of our website.
Photo: Jack Shick