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Petrel, Northern Giant

Identify and index birds in Southern Africa
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Johan van Rensburg
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Petrel, Northern Giant

Unread post by Johan van Rensburg » Sun Nov 12, 2017 11:05 am

Every pelagic trip produces at least one moment that makes it memorable. Getting close to a Northern Giant Petrel was that special instant this past weekend.

The trip out of Durban harbour hung in the balance until Thursday morning when eventually the skipper gave a thumbs-up after consulting the marine weather forcast for Durban Bay.

In atrocious weather conditions that equate to a nightmare for the photographer (bad light together with an unstable working platform) we managed to lure a northern Giant Petrel very close to our vessel. They are opportunistic feeders eating almost anything they can get their bills into and our frozen chum that consist of a mix of shark liver, sardines cod liver and anchovy oil was just too much for this bird to ignore…

At close range managing to get the subject in the frame is a challenge with the bird and the boat bobbing about at different frequencies and angles!


If seen at close range or under good light conditions, bill-tip coloration is a diagnostic feature that allows the observer to differentiate between the two similar-looking species of giant petrel, the Northern Giant Petrel Macronectes halli and the Southern Giant Petrel M. giganteus: greenish in the southern and reddish in the northern.

Some other interesting facts about the giant petrels:

Both species of giant petrel roam the southern ocean widely, especially immature birds.

Giant Petrels live up to 20 years in the wild.

Petrels produce stomach oil which they can either spray out as a defensive measure or can be regurgitated as an energy-rich food for chicks or for themselves during long flights.

Giant Petrels are the only members of the Procellariidae family (Petrels, Prions, and Shearwaters) that have legs strong enough to allow them to move around on land.

Like some other seabird species, giant Petrels secrete a saline solution from a nasal passage in order to rid their bodies of the excess salt they swallow while feeding.
728 Latest lifers: Hartlaub's babbler, Coppery-tailed coucal, Red-billed spurfowl, White-browed coucal, Scharlow's turaco, Copper sunbird, Long-toed lapwing, Eastern bronze-naped pigeon, Malagasy pond heron, Soft-plumaged petrel, Orange-winged pytilia.

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Karin Mitton
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Re: Petrel, Northern Giant

Unread post by Karin Mitton » Sun Nov 12, 2017 11:44 am

A wonderful photo and very interesting information. Thank you for sharing!

But your description of the conditions - one of the reasons I am so hesitant to go on one of these trips. :big_eyes:

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Re: Petrel, Northern Giant

Unread post by barryels » Wed Nov 15, 2017 1:45 pm

Thanks for posting such a stunning picture and for the special information :thumbs_up: .
Always be humble and understanding.

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