Wilson's Storm-Petrel Oceanites oceanicus

  • Order: Procellariiformes
  • Family: Oceanitidae
  • Polytypic: 3 subspecies
  • Authors: Jacob Drucker


  • Year-round
  • Migration
  • Breeding
  • Non-Breeding
Distribution of the Wilson's Storm-Petrel
eBird range map for Wilson's Storm-Petrel

Generated from eBird observations (Year-Round, 1900-present)

Distribution in the Americas

Off the west coast of South America, the most through surveys are by Spear and Ainley (2007), who found two disjunct groups of this species, one in the central Pacific and the other in the Humboldt Current. These groups correspond to the at-sea distributions of two different populations, of the Antarctic-breeding O. o. exasperatus/oceanicus and of the Chilean-breeding O. o. chilensis ("Fuegian Storm-Petrel"), respectively. In the central Pacific, birds are sparse and not common in the South Equatorial Current, and were recorded by Spear and Ainley between the longitudes of 119°W and 166°W, and between the latitudes of 12.87°N and 2.65°S.

In the waters off of Chile, "Fuegian Storm-Petrel" is very common, usually found within 509 km of the coast between 3.10°S and 53.63°S (Spear and Ainley 2007). Similarly, Beck (in Murphy 1936) recorded this taxa within 250 km of shore. In austral spring, the nonbreeding season, densities of this taxon are greatest off of southern Chile, though other concentrations occur extend to northern Chile. In austral autumn, the breeding season, concentrations were bifurcated, with the largest numbers off central and southern Chile.

In the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Brazil, the nominate subspecies is a common transient between March and November (Sick 1993).

In the Caribbean region, Wilson's Storm-Petrels occur off Guadeloupe mid-February to early August, with a peak in April, and seasonally fairly common around the Bahamas from late April to mid-June, but for the most part uncommon in the Caribbean. Rare to locally fairly common from April to September, but mainly late May to August in the Gulf of Mexico, with the largest concentrations around the mouth of the Mississippi River (Howell 2012).

See Howell (2012) for a detailed account of the distribution of Wilson's Storm-Petrel in North America.

Known breeding in the Americas occurs in the southern Chilean fjords (chilensis), and on Tierra del Fuego and the Falkland Islands (Murphy 1936, Onley and Scofield 2007, Brooke 2004).

Intriguing are inland reports of Wilson's Storm-Petrels from the Andes that suggest the possibility of an inland component to the species' range (Marin 2002, Alvaro Jaramillo, personal communications). Several reports from as far as 110 km inland and 1400 m in elevation of adults and juveniles mostly April and May (though there are several from late January through March), and even small flocks encountered in Las Cuevas, Mendoza, Argentina in January, 1940 (Zotta 1944). Though these sightings may be attributed to vagrancy, the number of storm-petrel records from the Andes and evidence such as a bird found with an egg in its oviduct underneath the eyrie of a Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) (Alvaro Jaramillo, personal communication) point to nesting somewhere inland, likely the Andes. In the northern hemisphere, Oceanites rarely occur as vagrants after storms so the same is assumed in the southern hemisphere.

Distribution outside the Americas

Breeding sites of Wilson's Storm-Petrel outside the Americas include South Shetland, Bouvetøy, Crozet, Kerguelen, Heard, Macquarie, Balleny, Scott, and Peter Islands, and many other small islands and archipelagos in the Southern Ocean, as well as Antarctica (Murphy 1936, Onley and Scofield 2007, Brooke 2004).

Disperses widely, spending the austral winter in the North Atlantic, the Indian, and the Pacific Oceans. In the Pacific it rarely ventures north of 45°N (Harrison 1983).


At sea, "Fuegian Storm-Petrel (O. o. chilensis) is found in the highest density over the continental slope within the Humboldt Current. Densities of this taxon decrease with sea surface temperature and wind speed, and increase with sea surface salinity (Spear and Ainley 2007). The subspecies oceanicus and exasperatus are found in the deep waters of the South Equatorial Current.

Wilson's Storm-Petrel breeds colonially in holes and crevices in cliffs, rocky slopes and screes on islands in the Fuegian region of Chile and the Subantarctic, the Antarctic mainland, and possibly in the Andes.

Historical changes

None described. Described as abundant in all accounts of its normal range.

Recommended Citation

Drucker, J. (2013). Wilson's Storm-Petrel (Oceanites oceanicus), version 1.0. In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/nb.wispet.01