Pelecanoididae – Diving Petrels

South Georgia Diving Petrel Pelecanoides georgicus ©Mike Danzenbaker

The diving petrels are seabirds in the bird order Procellariiformes. There are five very similar species all in the family Procellariidae and genus Pelecanoides (Lacépède, 1799), distinguished only by small differences in the coloration of their plumage, habitat, and bill construction. They are only found in the Southern Hemisphere. Most authorities place the diving petrels in their own family, the Pelecanoididae.

Diving petrels are auk-like small petrels of the southern oceans. The resemblances with the auks are due to convergent evolution, since both families feed by pursuit diving, although some researchers have in the past suggested that the similarities are due to relatedness. Among the Procellariiformes the diving petrels are the family most adapted to life in the sea rather than flying over it, and are generally found closer inshore than other families in the order.

They are plankton feeders, taking mostly crustacean prey such as krill, copepods and the amphipod Themisto gaudichaudii, also taking small fish and squid. They have several adaptations for obtaining their prey including short powerful wings, a gular pouch for storing food, and their nostrils open upwards rather than pointing forward as in other tubenoses.

Species List

According to the IOC there are just five species of diving petrels:

Peruvian Diving-Petrel Pelecanoides garnotii
Magellanic Diving-Petrel Pelecanoides magellani
South Georgia Diving-Petrel Pelecanoides georgicus
Common Diving-Petrel Pelecanoides urinatrix
Whenua Hou Diving Petrel Pelecanoides whenuahouensis

Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 4

Useful Reading
  • Field Guide to the Albatrosses, Petrels and Shearwaters of the World

    | By Derek Onley & Paul Scofield | Christopher Helm | 2007 | 224 pages, 46 colour plates, distribution maps | ISBN: 9780713643329 Buy this book from
  • Seabirds - a natural history

    | By Anthony J Gaston | A&C Black | 2004 | Hardback | 222 pages, 22 colour plates, b/w photos, illustrations, figures | ISBN: 9780713665574 Buy this book from
  • Southern Oceans Seabird Study Association

    SOSSA was founded by members of the New South Wales Albatross Study Group (NSWASG) in 1994. It was set up to be an umbrella organisation for many study groups concerned with studies of Southern Ocean bio-diversity. SOSSA is a wildlife research and conservation group which consists of dedicated people both professional and amateur. These people share a common interest and concern for the environment and the wildlife of the Southern Oceans
  • The Seabird Group

    The Seabird Group, a registered charity, was founded in 1966 to promote and help coordinate the study and conservation of seabirds

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