Petrels are tube-nosed seabirds in the bird order Procellariiformes. The common name does not indicate relationship beyond that point, as "petrels" occur in three of the four families within that group (except the Albatross family, Diomedeidae). Having a fossil record that was assumed to extend back at least 60 million years, the Procellariiformes was long considered to be among the older bird groupings, other than the ratites, with presumably distant ties to penguins and loons. However, recent research and fossil finds such as Vegavis show that the Galliformes (Pheasants, Grouse and relatives), and Anseriformes (ducks, geese) are still not fully resolved.

All the members of the order are exclusively pelagic in distribution — returning to land only to breed.

The family Procellariidae is the main radiation of medium-sized true petrels, characterised by united nostrils with medium septum, and a long outer functional primary. It is dominant in the Southern Oceans, but not so in the Northern Hemisphere.

It includes a number of petrel groups, the relationships between which have finally been resolved to satisfaction (Austin, 1996; Bretagnolle et al., 1998; Nunn & Stanley, 1998 and Brooke, 2004):

  • The fulmarine petrels: 7 species of surface predators and filter feeders, breed in high latitudes but migrate along cool currents to the north. All but Fulmarus essentially confined to the south, Fulmarus apparently colonised the N hemisphere during the Early Miocene.
    • The huge giant petrels, genus Macronectes, which are convergent with the albatrosses,
    • The true fulmars, genus Fulmarus,
    • Antarctic Petrel Thalassoica antarctica,
    • Cape Petrel Daption capense,
    • Snow Petrel Pagodroma nivea.
  • The prions: A specialised group of a few very numerous species, all southern. They have a small, fulmar-like form and mostly filter-feed on zooplankton.
    • Pachyptila, the prions proper
  • The procellariine petrels, larger or mid-sized species feeding on fish and molluscs which are fairly close to the prions:
    • Procellaria and
    • Bulweria.
  • Shearwaters: numerous species in several genera with a medium number of species.
    • Calonectris,
    • Puffinus, which is in fact two rather distinct groups of larger and smaller species,
    • Pseudobulweria,
    • Kerguelen Petrel Lugensa brevirostris.
  • The gadfly petrels: These are a considerable number of agile short-billed petrels in the genus Pterodroma which include the endangered Bermuda Petrel or Cahow and a considerable number of forms rendered extinct by human activity.

The family Hydrobatidae is the storm petrels, small pelagic petrels with a fluttering flight which often follow ships.

The family Pelecanoididae is the four species of diving petrels, genus Pelacanoides. These are auk-like small petrels of the southern oceans.

Read more about Petrel:  Etymology

Other articles related to "petrel, petrels":

List Of Procellariiformes - Fulmars, Petrels, Prions and Shearwaters
... The procellariids are the main group of medium-sized "true petrels", characterized by united nostrils with medium nasal septum, and a long outer functional primary flight ... Southern Giant Petrel, Macronectes giganteus LC Northern Giant Petrel, Macronectes halli LC Northern Fulmar, Fulmarus glacialis LC Southern Fulmar, Fulmarus ... Helena Petrel, Pseudobulweria rupinarum EX Tahiti Petrel, Pseudobulweria rostrata NT Beck's Petrel, Pseudobulweria becki CR Fiji Petrel, Pseudobulweria macgillivrayi CR Grey Petrel ...
Mascarene Petrel
... The Mascarene Petrel (Pseudobulweria aterrima) is a medium-sized, dark gadfly petrel ... Also sometimes known as the Mascarene Black Petrel, this species was known from four specimens found in the nineteenth century on the island of Réunion ...
Schirmacher Oasis - Flora and Fauna
... Exceptions are the Antarctic Skua, the Antarctic Petrel, the Snow Petrel, and the Wilson's Storm Petrel ...
List Of Procellariiformes - Diving Petrels
... The diving-petrels are relatives of the petrels distinguishable only by small differences in plumage and bill construction ... Peruvian Diving Petrel, Pelecanoides garnotii EN Magellanic Diving Petrel, Pelecanoides magellani LC South Georgia Diving Petrel, Pelecanoides georgicus LC Common Diving ...

Famous quotes containing the word petrel:

    Through the dark cold and the empty desolation,
    The wave cry, the wind cry, the vast waters
    Of the petrel and the porpoise. In my end is my beginning.
    —T.S. (Thomas Stearns)