Oceanodroma leucorhoa (Leach's storm-petrel) 

Swaelstertstormswael [Afrikaans]; Vaalstormvogeltje [Dutch]; Océanite cul-blanc [French]; Wellenläufer [German]; Painho-de-cauda-forcada [Portuguese]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves (birds) > Order: Ciconiiformes > Family: Hydrobatidae

Oceanodroma leucorhoa (Leach's storm-petrel)  

Leach's storm-petrel, offshore of California, USA. [photo Martin Meyers ©]


Distribution and habitat

Breeds on islands in the North Pacific and North and South Atlantic Oceans, with northern breeders heading south to the tropics and subtropics in the non-breeding season. It is a common summer visitor to southern African waters off the western and southern coast, although it also breeds in very small numbers on Dassen, Dyer and Dassen Island in the Western Cape and St. Croix Island in the Eastern Cape.

Movements and migrations

It is both a breeding and non-breeding migrant to southern Africa, arriving around September-November and departing in the period from February-April.


It mainly eats small fish, squid, planktonic crustaceans, copepods and offal, foraging both in the day and at night. Most prey are caught by dipping its head into the water and extracting the animal, sometimes following marine mammals to feed on food scraps or faeces.


  • Little known in southern Africa, as the total South African breeding population is thought to be about 25 pairs.
  • The nest is excavated by the female, consisting of a burrow ending in a nest chamber which is lined with small pieces of woody vegetation and sometimes grass. It may also use a rock crevice or burrow dug by another species.
  • Egg-laying season probably peaks in November.
  • It lays a single egg, which is incubated by both sexes for about 38-42 days, sometimes up to 50 days if the nest was for some reason left unattended for several days.
  • The chick is brooded for the first 4-6 days its life and by 55 days or so it is already roughly twice the adults mass. By the time it fledges at 61-70 days old its weight has decreased to only slightly more than that of its parents, at which point it becomes independent.


Not globally threatened, but Endangered in South Africa, where its population is small and threatened by predation of Domestic cats (Felis catus) and Kelp gulls at its colonies.


  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town. 


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