Notice for readers: On March 31, Neotropical Birds will be integrated into the new Birds of the World, a powerful research database offering species accounts for every species on earth. Learn more at While Birds of the World is a subscription service, we remain committed to offering this content to Neotropical Birds contributors and to those unable to pay for it through our scholarship program. Stay tuned.

Snowy Sheathbill Chionis albus

  • Order: Charadriiformes
  • Family: Chionidae
  • Monotypic
  • Authors: Emerson D. Fang


Geographic Variation


Related Species

Sheathbills are the only bird family with a breeding range that falls entirely within the Antarctic and Subantarctic, and it is the only common and widespread land-based bird in that region. The family has two species that are have a similar appearance and habits, but that do not overlap geographically. The Snowy Sheathbill breeds on the Antarctic Peninsula and subantarctic islands of the Scotia Arc, and many birds migrate to Patagonia, Tierra del Fuego and the Falkland Islands in winter. The Black-faced Sheathbill (Chionis minor) lives on four widely separated island groups year round close to the Antarctic Convergence in the southern Indian Ocean. These four populations each usually are classified as separate subspecies. Since the last ice age ended 10,000 years ago and the pack ice "bridge" linking the four island groups retreated southwards, the subspecies of Black-faced Sheathbill are probably genetically isolated (Forster 1996).

Recommended Citation

Fang, E. D. (2010). Snowy Sheathbill (Chionis albus), version 1.0. In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.