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Smallest seabird in the world

30 October 2011

European storm petrels are the smallest seabird in the world.  I have surveyed this species on St Kilda and read about their biology and ecology, but I didn’t realise just how amazing these birds were until I managed to see one in the hand.

ESP - smallest seabird in the worldESP sitting on my hand

This species breeds on St Kilda where they nest underground in burrows or amongst the stone structures spread across the island.  The bird was found grounded at the corner of one of the base buildings by a member of QinetiQ staff (thanks Ewan!).  It was a juvenile and had probably just fledged and then become disorientated due to the miserable weather conditions that night.

ESP on grass photo: recently fledged, note the downy feathers still on the belly of the bird

I showed the bird to people living on the base. For many, even those who had worked here for years, it was the first time they had seen this species.  That is because, like other petrels, it only visits land after dark so most of their lives are spent out of sight of man.  We had a short appreciation session before I successfully released the bird to sea.

Gina, Seabird and Marine Ranger

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Fright night!