Category

Seabird

Southern Giant Petrel, Macronectes giganteus, Southern Ocean

Falklands, Seabird, Southern Ocean

Our trip began with a two-night crossing from Ushuaia to the Falklands. During that middle day, as we sailed north-east though the Southern Ocean, we had some good bird watching, including albatrosses, prions (tiny little rocket birds I am not qualified to photograph), small petrels and the larger and more impressive giant petrels. I spent a lot of time on the back deck, admiring the birds and trying to get photos of them when they came close to the ship. (I typically shot birds from the big boat with 300mm f/2.8 lens with 1.4x converter on a full frame body, which was the perfect setup.) We were on the very stable 270′ ship M/V Polar Star, and had very calm seas for our crossing, so standing on deck and shooting was a breeze.

Southern giant petrel in flight.  The distinctive tube nose (naricorn), characteristic of species in the Procellariidae family (tube-snouts), is easily seen, Macronectes giganteus

Southern giant petrel in flight. The distinctive tube nose (naricorn), characteristic of species in the Procellariidae family (tube-snouts), is easily seen.
Image ID: 23681
Species: Southern giant petrel, Macronectes giganteus
Location: Falkland Islands, United Kingdom

This day, the birds I photographed the most were the giant petrels, there were just so many of them. They are quite bold, coming alongside the boat often and soaring smoothly, making it easy for even a non-bird-photographer such as myself to get some keeper shots. As for identification, it was not clear to me which species of giant petrel I was seeing. Recently, I consulted with two staff member from our trip, Dave Shaw (Fairbanks, AK) and Jim Danzenbaker, both of whom are skilled at bird identification and educated us during our trip about seabird natural history. Dave is blogging about the trip too, and has had some great posts recently. Did I mention that the staff on our trip was tops? Thanks Dave and Jim. From them I learned that most of the giant petrels I photographed crossing to the Falklands were Southern Giant Petrels (Macronectes giganteus), but after moving south to South Georgia I ended up photographing mostly Northern Giant Petrels (Macronectes halli). Does that sound bass ackwards? Their ranges do overlap considerably.

Southern giant petrel in flight.  The distinctive tube nose (naricorn), characteristic of species in the Procellariidae family (tube-snouts), is easily seen, Macronectes giganteus

Southern giant petrel in flight. The distinctive tube nose (naricorn), characteristic of species in the Procellariidae family (tube-snouts), is easily seen.
Image ID: 23682
Species: Southern giant petrel, Macronectes giganteus
Location: Falkland Islands, United Kingdom

All the birds in this blog post I believe are Southern Giant Petrels. I’ll post about Northern Giant Petrels when we get to South Georgia Island. In appearance the two species are quite similar to one another which, combined with their range overlap, can make separating them difficult. Dave Shaw suggested that I lookfor a green bill tip (for Southern Giant Petrels) versus red bill tip (Northern), as well as eye color (pale is more common in Northern, darker eye in Southern). About the only sure thing for identifying giant petrels is the white morph, also known as a “white nellie”; the white morph is only known to occur in the Southern Giant Petrel. The Southern Giant Petrel measures up to 39″ long, with a wingspan of up to 81″. Adult males weight 11 lb. while females weight up to 18 lb. My hunch is that the large size for females is an adaptation to reproductive demands. Giant petrels range throughout the Southern Ocean, including Antarctica. The Southern species has a range which is centered somewhat south of that of the Northern species. When in the same location, the two species exhibit temporal separation in their breeding, with Northern giant petrels breeding some six weeks earlier than Southern giant petrels. As of 2009, there are estimated to be 46,800 nesting pairs and the species is listed as “least concern”, an improvement over counts and status of a decade ago. The giant petrel, like many pelagic birds, is at risk of injury and death from longline fishing equipment. Giant petrels are members of the tube-nose order (Procellariiformes) and display the characteristic tubular snout above the bill.

White nellie, the white morph of the southern giant petrel.  Southern giant petrel in flight, Macronectes giganteus

White nellie, the white morph of the southern giant petrel. Southern giant petrel in flight.
Image ID: 23678
Species: Southern giant petrel, Macronectes giganteus
Location: Falkland Islands, United Kingdom

I often photographed the giant petrels at sunset, hoping to put them against a pastel sky and light them with a little flash. The results were most pleasing for albatrosses, but I did get some nice images of giant petrels zooming over the water after dark. I liked this one best:

Southern giant petrel in flight at dusk, after sunset, as it soars over the open ocean in search of food, Macronectes giganteus

Southern giant petrel in flight at dusk, after sunset, as it soars over the open ocean in search of food.
Image ID: 23680
Species: Southern giant petrel, Macronectes giganteus
Location: Falkland Islands, United Kingdom

See more photos of Southern Giant Petrels, Macronectes giganteus photos.

Next: New Island, Falkland Islands
Previous: Cerro Cinco Hermanos, The Five Brothers, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina
Trip Index: Cheesemans Antarctica, Falklands and South Georgia
All “Southern Ocean” entries

Western Gull, Larus occidentalis

Birds, California, Seabird, Wildlife

The Western gull, Larus occidentalis, is a large white-headed gull common along the western coast of North America. The Western gull ranges from British Columbia to Baja California. It is exclusively marine, and nests on offshore rocks and islands. While offshore it feeds on fishes and invertebrates that it can take at the surface (it cannot dive), and will scavenge carcasses and shellfish while foraging along the shore. It is known to predate upon other smaller birds. Western gulls have a lifespan up to about 25 years, although 15-20 years is more common.

Western gull, early morning pink sky, Larus occidentalis, La Jolla, California

Western gull, early morning pink sky.
Image ID: 18394
Species: Western gull, Larus occidentalis
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Western gull, Larus occidentalis, La Jolla, California

Western gull.
Image ID: 26465
Species: Western gull, Larus occidentalis
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Western gull, Larus occidentalis

Western gull.
Image ID: 03766
Species: Western gull, Larus occidentalis

Western gull, adult breeding plumage, note yellow orbital ring around eye, Larus occidentalis, La Jolla, California

Western gull, adult breeding plumage, note yellow orbital ring around eye.
Image ID: 15114
Species: Western gull, Larus occidentalis
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Western gull, open mouth, Larus occidentalis, La Jolla, California

Western gull, open mouth.
Image ID: 15553
Species: Western gull, Larus occidentalis
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Western gull, flying, Larus occidentalis, La Jolla, California

Western gull, flying.
Image ID: 15559
Species: Western gull, Larus occidentalis
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Western gull, courtship display, Larus occidentalis, La Jolla, California

Western gull, courtship display.
Image ID: 15556
Species: Western gull, Larus occidentalis
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Keywords: Western gull, Larus occidentalis

Boobie Photos

Birds, Galapagos Diaries, Seabird

For some reason many visitors to this web site have been searching for boobie photos. We simply do not understand the intense interest in photos of boobies, or in boobies in general. Boobies are just a bunch of seabirds and not even particularly rare. The blue boobies seem to elicit the most interest — visitors seem amazed that they come in a deep blue color, naturally with no cosmetic alteration necessary. (They also come in brown and red, and some even have masks!) In spite of all the boobie traffic, however, nobody buys the boobie photographs, they just furtively look and move on. We have yet to license one of our boobies to anyone, until today when we finally sold a boobie photo, a fine art print in fact. So we are no longer amateur boobie photographers. We can honestly say that we proudly photograph boobies all over the world, professionally. You know the look: beautiful boobies, endless white sand beaches and glamorous island settings. Big ones, small ones, perky ones, drab ones, bodacious ones. We’ve been thinking of starting up a specialty website, www.firstclassboobies.com or www.worldsbestboobies.com.

Blue-footed booby, courtship display, Sula nebouxii, North Seymour Island

Blue-footed booby, courtship display.
Image ID: 01791
Species: Blue-footed booby, Sula nebouxii
Location: North Seymour Island, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

Blue-footed booby, courtship display, Punta Suarez, Sula nebouxii, Hood Island

Blue-footed booby, courtship display, Punta Suarez.
Image ID: 01797
Species: Blue-footed booby, Sula nebouxii
Location: Hood Island, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

Blue-footed booby, Punta Suarez, Sula nebouxii, Hood Island

Blue-footed booby, Punta Suarez.
Image ID: 01801
Species: Blue-footed booby, Sula nebouxii
Location: Hood Island, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

Blue-footed booby with chick, Sula nebouxii, North Seymour Island

Blue-footed booby with chick.
Image ID: 01808
Species: Blue-footed booby, Sula nebouxii
Location: North Seymour Island, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

Keywords: boobies, boobie photos, boobie pictures, boobie photographs