Birds of North Carolina:
their Distribution and Abundance
Fea's Petrel - Pterodroma feae
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General Comments The Fea's Petrel, as with the Trindade Petrel, has a checkered taxonomic history and has also undergone several English names. Several decades ago, when the first individuals were found off North Carolina, the species was known as the Soft-plumaged Petrel, with four subspecies; two of these nested in the eastern Atlantic Ocean near the Mediterranean Sea, one nested in the far southern Atlantic, and the fourth nested in the Pacific. The species was split into three species in 1983?; at that time, the subspecies that nested mainly in the Cape Verde Islands was named the Cape Verde Petrel. As all of the North Carolina records appear to be from this population, we then had to get used to this new English name. Finally, the American Ornithologists' Union changed the English name to Fea's Petrel. (The common name is usually pronounced as "FAY-uz".) The other eastern Atlantic breeding form, the Zino's Petrel (Pterodroma madeira), is smaller and has a much smaller bill than that of Fea's Petrel. However, despite dozens of excellent photos of Fea's, and over 75 (if not 100) records, the AOU did not accept this species to its list of birds having been documented from North America, because of the similarity to Zino's Petrel, until perhaps a decade ago. And, for a number of years, the ABA Checklist Committee had accepted only "Fea's/Zino's Petrel" to its list of North American birds, even though there were no reports of Zino's Petrel, much less any photos, from the continent. Only in late 2012 did the ABA finally list Fea's Petrel (without the "/Zino's") as a full species to its check-list. Thankfully, the NC BRC accepted Fea's Petrel to the state list in the 1990's. This is one of the four Pterodroma species found off of North Carolina that birders travel long distances to see, as all but the Black-capped are extremely rare anywhere else.
Breeding Status Nonbreeder
NC BRC List Definitive
State Status
U.S. Status
State Rank SZ
Global Rank G1G2
Coastal Plain Offshore visitor. Distribution is very similar to that of the Trindade Petrel, however it is very slightly less numerous; in the Gulf Stream, essentially only off Oregon and Hatteras inlets. Rare but somewhat regular, also seen annually, but usually just a few reports each year; at least 100 records. No records south of Hatteras Inlet. Late May to mid-Sep, with most records in late May and early Jun; far fewer records after early Jun than for Herald Petrel. Peak counts: 3, off Oregon Inlet, 4 Jun 2005; 3, off Hatteras Inlet, 19 Jun 2005. Very early was one on 29 Apr 2022 off Hatteras Inlet.
Piedmont No records.
Mountains No records.
Finding Tips Fortunately for the birder, the records for the species are mostly clumped into a one-month span; thus, take organized pelagic trips out of Hatteras or Oregon inlets to deep water from late May to late Jun, particularly late May or early Jun.
* to **
Attribution LeGrand[2023-03-15], LeGrand[2022-09-12], LeGrand[2018-11-06]
NC Map
Map depicts all counties with a report (transient or resident) for the species.
Click on county for list of all known species.