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Bird Sightings : Hebrides : European Storm-petrel

Hebrides bird sightings -  European Storm-petrel
View a large photograph of this European Storm-petrel 135Kb


European Storm-petrel

(Storm Petrel, Storm-petrel, Little Peter, Mootie, Ala Mootie, Alamotti, Stormies, Stormy, Mother Mary's Chicken, Mother Cary's Chicken)

Hydrobates pelagicus

Gaelic: Annlag, Paraig, Luaireag


Photography © Martin Scott
Isle of Lewis - Outer Hebrides (Western Isles)
10th November, 2008

'7th November...Couple of pics of Storm Petrel that was taken into care on board a boat in Loch Roag on Friday night. Has head injuries and is partly disabled down one side.

10th November...Stormie doing well in care - now sporting a splint and a dose of
anti-biotic. It is very mobile around the house - choosing to sit on
folk by choice. Even eating a mix of anchovies in the bath!

'11th November...Afraid the stormie didnt make it, it died this am'


Later received this email:

'Last night I discovered what appears to be a European Storm-petrel in the building I work in. It probably flew thought the opened hanger doors where it became trapped. I believe it's injured as it's tail feathers are not symmetrical and it does not make an effort to take to wing. I have it at home in a large ventilated box and i don't know what to do with it. I've been trying to feed it fish and water. Do you have any suggestions on how I should care for it? After doing some research I understand they are common to the UK and migrate to the African coast this time of year. I have to say, I have never seen one of these critters around these parts before. Funny thing is, we are about 30 mins from the coast ourselves. Where do I go from here?'
Bill C
Newfoundland, Canada


Passed Bill's email onto Martin (RSPB) who was caring for the injured Stormie shown above...


'Firstly a photo to confirm identification would be useful.
Secondly, if it is a storm petrel, they are pretty fickle. I am guessing that it will have been deposited by a recent storm so is likely to be exhausted. The level of exhaustion is critical. If they are too exhausted they can live for c72 hours no matter how much they feed as they unable to increase what is technically known as their 'fat score'
If there are no obvious other signs of trauma (broken wing, flesh wounds, oiling etc) best to try and get some food inside it.
In the wild stormies are really plankton feeders - so you have to try and replicate. Not easy! we mashed up a tin of anchovies and olive oil and put it as a slick on water. We had it in a shallow sided bowl, but it seemed to struggle with this, and then did it in the bath. Stormies feed with their wings raised in the wild. Our one tried this - it looks rather odd in the bath
See photo
If it wont feed you are going to have problems. They wont eat large bits of fish but may if it is pulped, but the real crucial thing is it will have to be on the water surface. If it survives 48 hours worth getting a local vetinary to give it a once over.
Look forward to seeing a pic...


Our Petrel photographs

European Storm-petrel
European Storm-petrel
European Storm-petrel
European Storm-petrel
Leach's Storm Petrel


  • European Storm-petrel
  • Hydrobates pelagicus
  • Gaelic: Annlag, Paraig, Luaireag
  • UK: Migrant Breeder
  • UK: AMBER LIST, 27,000 pairs (Summer) BTO
  • WI: (Possibly) Abundant breeder (10,000+ breeding pairs)
  • See from Westerly seawatching places when a gale blows to shore
  • Breeds: Islands: UK (Western & Northern Isles) & North & West of Europe. Forms colonies. (UK May - September). (Nests: crevices & burrows, holes in stone walls. Visits the nest at night)
  • Winters: Leaves September - October to seas off South Africa
  • Feeds in flocks: planktonic crustaceans & small fish (picked from surface - hovering: wings up in V shape, flutttering & bat-like) Follows ships (comes ashore only to feed at NIGHT)
  • Smallest seabird. (sparrow-sized) . All black, white rump, tail square-tipped or rounded, NOT forked, white rump patch reaches far down the side (Leach's only part-way down) , broad white band on underwing (Leachs' none)
  • Listen to a Storm petrel RSPB site ( trills & purrs, famously described by Charles Oldham as "like a fairy being sick")
  • Similar birds: Leach's Storm Petrel, (forked tails), House Martin


Recorded living up to 31 years old!

Great Skuas eat storm petrels. They live alongside where the petrels are breeding - where they have a plentiful food supply. Rats and feral cats can also be a major problem for breeding birds

As with other seabirds, strong gales can sometimes blow many birds to shore, they are known as 'wrecks'. Nearly 7000 storm petrels were blown ashore in gales in the UK in November 1952.


European Storm-petrels records in the Western Isles

(Possibly) Abundant breeder (10,000+ breeding pairs)
Source: Outer Hebrides Bird Report (2001)

On the chart below the darker the shade of blue the more abundant the European Storm-petrel is during a month or the more likely you are to see it.

























(Source: Outer Hebrides Birds Checklist)



Other local bird photographs

Sources of information for the bird sightings section

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