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Southern Giant Petrel


Southern giant petrel (Macronectes giganteus)

Southern Giant Petrel
Slightly smaller than the lesser albatross (mollymawks). Has a large and distinctive hooked beak, hence called the Sea Vulture. It has a fierce looking appearance. Giant petrels will attack and eat smaller species of seabirds. They are also generally scavengers and are frequently seen around anything dead floating on the surface or around feeding fur seals and sperm whales. They also naturally feed on squid. Has two colour phases, a dark phase, which is easily confused with the northern giant petrel (although the northern giant petrel has a brown tip to its bill) and the distinctive white morph giant petrel.

White morph giant petrels are seen off Kaikoura each winter and around 10% of southern giants are white-morph birds (which blend into the snow covered areas where the birds breed). Southern giants breed on ice free islands around the Antarctic Continent. Mainly a winter and spring visitor to New Zealand waters from more southern latitudes.