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Northern Giant Petrel - BirdForum Opus

Alternative name: Hall's Giant Petrel

Adult - Note pale bluish eye.
Photo © by Joseph Morlan
Salisbury Plain, South Georgia 5 March 2018.
Macronectes halli


Length 81-94cm. Wingspan 180-200cm.
Adult: largely greyish-brown above flecked with black, brown and white, slightly paler below with darker collar below whitish throat. Head white with heavy grey-brown mottling on crown and nape giving a distinct capped effect. Underwing grey-brown with dark leading edge and silvery-grey on bases of secondaries and inner primaries. Iris pale grey, bill horn-coloured with reddish tip ( but beware Antarctic Giant Petrels that have been roosting with the bill buried in the feathers as the bill, particularly the tip, can look reddish ), legs blackish or grey.
Immature: juvenile is darker than adult, largely glossy-black developing white face and capped appearance with age.

Photo © by derekh42

Similar Species

Closely resembles Southern Giant Petrel M. giganteus which differs in less capped effect of head, whiter breast, white leading edge to wing and horn-coloured bill with greenish tip.


Giant Petrels are the size of small albatrosses but distinguished by shorter wings, bulkier bodies and heavier, less graceful flight. However, the two species are very difficult to separate at sea and birds with intermediate characters are known to occur in some areas. Some of these may be hybrids. On South Georgia, up to 2% are mixed pairs [2]


Immature in flight.
Photo © by Pluvius
Kaikoura, New Zealand, 21 February 2009

Southern Oceans breeding on Prince Edward, Marion, Crozet, Lerguelen, Macquarie, Chatham, Stewart, Auckland, Antipodes and Campbell Islands.

Disperse widely to reach Australia and South Africa, mainly on the western coast but probably not reaching as far north as Southern Giant Petrel.


This is a monotypic species[1].


Remote islands. Follows ships regularly and attracted to whale carcasses and seal colonies.



Breeds July-February, nest is a depression surrounded by dry vegetation. Single white egg (102 x 61mm).


Scavenges on mammal carcasses and around seabird colonies. Also takes squid and fish from sea surface and kills smaller birds. Squabbles noisily over carrion.


Hoarse croaks and grunts but slightly higher-pitched than Southern Giant Petrel. A laughing hu-hu-hu-hu.


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2017. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: v2017, with updates to August 2017. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Brown RM, Techow NMSM, Wood AG, Phillips RA (2015) Hybridization and Back-Crossing in Giant Petrels (Macronectes giganteus and M. halli) at Bird Island, South Georgia, and a Summary of Hybridization in Seabirds. PLoS ONE 10(3): e0121688. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0121688
  3. Marchant, S. & Higgins, P.J. (coordinating editors) 1990. Handbook of Australian, New Zealand & Antarctic Birds. Volume 1, Ratites to ducks; Part A, Ratites to petrels. Melbourne, Oxford University Press .
  4. Szabo, M.J. 2013. Northern giant petrel. In Miskelly, C.M. (ed.) New Zealand Birds Online. http://www.nzbirdsonline.org.nz

Recommended Citation

External Links

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