Storm Petrel

Hydrobates pelagicus (Linnaeus, 1758) TM STOPE 520
Family: Procellariiformes > Hydrobatidae

This small petrel, not much larger than a House Martin and very similar in appearance, is extremely pelagic, spending most of its life at sea.

The Storm Petrel only comes to land during the summer months, making its breeding attempts on offshore islands and a few isolated headlands. Although it has an estimated breeding population in the UK of around 30,000 pairs, this is an extremely difficult species to see during the breeding season, only coming to land during the hours of darkness often staying at sea on bright moonlit nights.

Several Storm Petrel breeding colonies have been the subject of detailed study, with ringing data demonstrating that this is a long-lived bird, with some individuals living for over 30 years.


Storm Petrel identification is sometimes difficult. The following article may help when identifying Storm Petrel.

related video

Identifying Petrels

Storm Petrel. Photograph by Joe Pender

Petrels are seldom-seen, unfamiliar birds to many of us, but both species: Storm Petrel and Leach's Petrel are actually very common breeding birds and frequently encountered off our shores during passage. Both are small black and white birds that seem to defy the rough seas they are often encountered in. How can we tell the two species apart?


Listen to example recordings of the main vocalisations of Storm Petrel, provided by xeno-canto contributors.



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Status and Trends

Population size and trends and patterns of distribution based on BTO surveys and atlases with data collected by BTO volunteers.


This species can be found on the following statutory and conservation listings and schedules.



Storm Petrels are pelagic and nest underground, hence they are difficult to survey and the first reliable population estimates were made during the 1998–2002 Census (Seabird 2000) when tape-playback techniques were available to count occupied burrows. Until the results of the Seabirds Count (2015–2021) have been published the recent trend of the species is uncertain, although data available from some colonies suggest numbers have increased, including a doubling of the population at the largest colony on Mousa (JNCC 2022)


Storm Petrels breed on remote, small, rat-free, offshore islands on the Atlantic fringe of north and west Britain and Ireland from Shetland to Borhou in the Channel Islands. During the winter period of Bird Atlas 2007–11 they were recorded from 50 10-km squares, mostly along the North Sea coast and off southwest England.

Occupied 10-km squares in UK

European Distribution Map

European Breeding Bird Atlas 2


Change in occupied 10-km squares in the UK


Storm Petrel is a localised breeder present during the breeding season and recorded occasionally during autumn seawatching.

Weekly occurence of Storm Petrel from BirdTrack
Weekly occurrence patterns (shaded cells) and reporting rates (vertical bars) based on BirdTrack data. Reporting rates give the likelihood of encountering the species each week.


Information about movement and migration based on online bird portals (e.g. BirdTrack), Ringing schemes and tracking studies.


View a summary of recoveries in the Online Ringing Report.

Foreign locations of birds ringed or recovered in Britain & Ireland

Foreign locations of Storm Petrel ringed or recovered in Britain & Ireland
Encountered in: Winter (Nov-Feb); Spring (Mar-Apr); Summer (May-Jul); Autumn (Aug-Oct)


Lifecycle and body size information about Storm Petrel, including statistics on nesting, eggs and lifespan based on BTO ringing and nest recording data.



View number ringed each year in the Online Ringing Report


Feather measurements and photos on featherbase


For information in another language (where available) click on a linked name

Gaelic: Annlag-fairge
Welsh: Pedryn Drycin
Catalan: ocell de tempesta comú
Czech: burnácek malý
Danish: Lille Stormsvale
Dutch: Stormvogeltje
Estonian: atlandi tormipääsu
Finnish: merikeiju
French: Océanite tempête
German: Sturmschwalbe
Hungarian: viharfecske
Icelandic: Stormsvala
Irish: Guairdeall
Italian: Uccello delle tempeste
Latvian: Eiropas vetrasburatajs
Lithuanian: bukauodegis audrašauklis
Norwegian: Havsvale
Polish: nawalnik burzowy
Portuguese: alma-de-mestre
Slovak: víchrovnícek morský
Slovenian: strakoš
Spanish: Paíño europeo
Swedish: stormsvala
Folkname: Little Peter


Interpretation and scientific publications about Storm Petrel from BTO scientists.


Causes of change

The trend is uncertain and hence further research is needed to understand potential drivers of population change.

Links to more information from

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