Birds of North Carolina:
their Distribution and Abundance
Wilson's Storm-Petrel - Oceanites oceanicus
HYDROBATIDAE Members:
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General Comments Some authorities consider the Wilson's Storm-Petrel to be the world's most abundant seabird. Certainly, it is the most abundant pelagic bird in the north Atlantic for much of the warmer months (Apr into Oct), even though it nests, like the Sooty Shearwater, at islands in the far southern oceans. It essentially is never missed on pelagic trips into the Gulf Stream off North Carolina during this period, and daily trip totals over 100 birds are the norm, especially between late May and the end of Sep. Also, it is probably the easiest seabird to photograph, as many birds circle boats and patter over the waves when the boats are stopped for fishing; and, this species is usually the first to materialize out of nowhere when fish oil is poured overboard to attract seabirds.
Breeding Status Nonbreeder
NC BRC List Definitive
State Status
U.S. Status
State Rank S5N
Global Rank G5
Coastal Plain Offshore visitor to the Gulf Stream, and less so to the cooler water zones. Common to abundant from mid-May to mid-Sep; uncommon to fairly common as early as late Apr and to mid-Dec; one Mar record, but none for Jan-Feb. Peak offshore counts: 1,912, off Oregon Inlet, 29 Aug 1985; 1,130, off Oregon Inlet, 18 Aug 1996; there are counts over 200 individuals on trips in Nov and Dec. Rare to occasionally uncommon as seen from shore, most frequently from Cape Hatteras Point; peak counts from shore: 750, Cape Hatteras Point, 31 May 1970; 250 there on 1 Jun 1970. Far inland, casual to very rare during and after hurricanes; records are: 2, Lake Waccamaw, 13 Sep 1984 (after Hurricane Diana); 1, New Bern, 16 Sep 1999 (after Hurricane Floyd); 1, Goldsboro, 19 Sep 2003 (after Hurricane Isabel); 1, Woodlake (Moore), 25 Jul 1985 (after Hurricane Bob); 1, Lake Pinehurst (Moore), 13 Jul 1996 (after Hurricane Bertha); and 3, Buckhorn Reservoir (Wilson), Sep 1-2 2006 (after Tropical Storm Ernesto). Of great interest was a storm-petrel of unidentified species seen on Buckhorn Reservoir (Wilson) on 11 May 2015 [Chat 79:129 link], right after passage of Tropical Storm Ana; this is our only spring record inland of a storm-petrel.
Piedmont Accidental to casual visitor, after hurricanes. Three records: 3 at Jordan Lake, 6 Sep 1996 (after Hurricane Fran); 9 at Lakes Gaston and Roanoke Rapids, 19 Sep 2003 (after Hurricane Isabel); 11, Jordan Lake, 2 Sep 2006 (after Tropical Storm Ernesto).
Mountains No records.
Finding Tips This is seldom missed on pelagic trips from May into Oct.
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Attribution LeGrand[2015-12-23], LeGrand[2012-01-04], LeGrand[2011-11-25]
NC Map
Map depicts all counties with a report (transient or resident) for the species.
Click on county for list of all known species.
NA Maps
(source NatureServe)

View NatureServe distribution maps for Oceanites oceanicus