cape petrel

"The Cape Pigeon has long been known to voyagers of the southern hemisphere, being abundant in the cold and temperate seas and conspicuous on account of its black and white spotted plumage", says Oliver.

"It is the pintado petrel of Dampier's, Cook's and other early voyages to Australia. Sir Joseph Banks recorded the pintado as having been observed in New Zealand waters during Cook's first voyage and then for nearly a century little more was heard of it as a New Zealand species until Gray listed it in 1862."

We now know there are two subspecies, capense which breeds around the Antarctic continent and on many subantarctic islands in the Atlantic and Indian oceans, and the smaller Snares cape pigeon, australes, which breeds only on the subantarctic islands of New Zealand.

The cape pigeon, except during the breeding season from November to December, spends its life at sea, especially in the Antarctic and cold temperature seas. Abundant and conspicuous, it has been observed throughout the southern oceans by all travellers to those regions. It sails close to the surface of the water, now and then giving its wings a few flaps.

Cape Petrels are extremely aggressive at sea both towards their own species and others, and will even spit oil at competitors. Their habit of pecking at the water to seize prey is the origin of one of their common names, the Cape Pigeon.

Greytown, 2006

Sub Species:
australe, capense.

Other common names:  — 

pintado petrel, cape petrel, cape fulmar

Description:  — 

Native bird

40cm; 450 g; belly and breast white; the underwing white with a black border. Its back and upperwings are speckled black and white, and the tail is white with black speckles and a terminal band of black

Where to find:  — 

In the New Zealand region, capense, breeds at the Balleny Islands and at Scott Island in the Antarctic, and australe breeds at the Snares, Bounty, Antipodes, Auckland, Campbell and Chatham Islands. It is common off the New Zealand mainland, especially in winter.

Youtube video  — 

»»»  Cape petrel

Credit for the photograph: — 

Illustration description: — 


Gould, John, Birds of Australia, 1840-48.

Reference(s): — 


Heather, B., & Robertson, H., Field Guide to the Birds of New Zealand, 2000.

Oliver, W.R.B., New Zealand Birds, 1955.

Page date & version: — 


Saturday, 17 May, 2014; ver2009v1


©  2005    Narena Olliver,    new zealand birds limited,     Greytown, New Zealand.