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Petrels and Shearwaters

Distribution, Life History, Adaptations, ConservationFood

Petrels and shearwaters are wide-ranging oceanic birds with a characteristic tubenose and other specialized features that equip them well for a life spent mostly at sea. Found throughout the world, these long-lived colonial nesting seabirds include some 79 species in four families, all in the Order Procelliformes. These seabirds show a great range in body size, from the giant petrel with a 6 ft (2 m) wing span to the robin-sized diving petrel. However, they are all fairly uniform in color, either all dark, or dark and light. The sexes are externally alike. While several species are globally endangered and a number of others quite rare, a majority are numerous and thriving.

Some shearwaters and petrels dive to catch fish while other species feed on the surface of the ocean where they pick up crustaceans, macroplankton, fish, squid, and even garbage from ships. Giant petrels eat the young and eggs of other birds, and one may find a variety of Procelliformes feasting on the remains of a dead whale or seal.

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