The Falkland Islands and South Atlantic
Prions, Falkland Island, South Atlantic

Thin-billed prion

This is the 'Firebird' of the Falklands. Like all prions they have blue-grey upperparts and a dark 'M' on their back extending to their wing-tips. They are white underneath and have a white eyebrow with a dark line from the eye to the neck and a wedge-shaped tail, grey with a black tip. Feet are pale blue. They fly very fast often in big flocks.Their diet is mainly amphipods.

Nests are in burrows up to 2m (6ft) long in soft peat or sandy soil. Adults return to shore colonies in early September and a single egg is laid late October/ early November. Males and females rear the chicks which fledge by late February and the population leaves for the sea by mid-March.

Thin-billed prions are the most numerous petrel species in the Falkland Islands. They were once considered a pest as it was thought they undermined pasture. They are now fully protected by the Conservation of Wildlife and Nature Ordinance 1999. There are large populations on New Island and the Jason Islands and other islands off the west coast of West Falklands. They also breed on Crozet Island, Isla Noir (Chile) and Kerguelen Island. The Falklands is probably the most important.

  • 83-Fairy-Prion-Duade-Paton

Fairy prion- Pachyptila turtur

Fairy Prions are the smallest prions, 23-28cm (9-11 inches) blue grey upperparts with a prominent ‘M’ mark from wing tip to wing tip and a broad black tail tip, a pale eye stripe. White underparts. The head is mostly pale blue grey with a small, indistinct pale eye-stipe and a brown iris. The throat and chin and sides of face are white and the bill is short and stubby, pale blue and black. Legs and feet are bluish with creamy-flesh webs. They often feed in large flocks, fluttering and picking from the sea surface,
Breeds on Beauchêne Island in the Falkland Islands (80km, 50miles south of East Falkland) where it nests in burrows or cavities beneath rock debris on storm beaches. (I Strange). Birds were observed to be incubating single eggs in mid-December and hatched chicks recorded in early January.
It is thought that Beauchêne Island might host a breeding population of several thousand pairs. More colonies possibly exist on other outlying islands.
These prions are circumpolar in southern seas. They breed on South Georgia. Abroad main breeding colonies are in the Australasian region on islands in the Bass Strait and on Tasmania, and islands off New Zealand.









Sources include: Falkland Islands State of the Environment Report 2008 Otley H, Munro G, Clausen A, Ingham B. A Field Guide to the Wildlife of The Falkland Islands and South Georgia - Ian J Strange, Guide to Birds of the Falkland Islands- Robin W. Woods.
Photographic credits: Johnny Giese/, Fairy prion by Duade Paton
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