Birds of North Carolina:
their Distribution and Abundance
Wilson's Storm-Petrel - Oceanites oceanicus
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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 not unusual, 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: 1,189 from Cape Hatteras Point, 22 May 2021; 817, Cape Hatteras Point, 8 Jun 2022; 750, Cape Hatteras Point, 31 May 1970; 535 at that site, 7 Jun 2022; 520 at that site, 2 Jun 2021; 496 at that site, 27 May 2022. Peak coastal count elsewhere: 80 in Beaufort Inlet (Carteret), 7 Jun 2023; 40 from Atlantic Beach (Carteret), 28 May 2023. 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. Four 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); and one videotaped flying over Jordan Lake, 1 Oct 2022* (after Hurricane Ian). Apparently none of the first three were reviewed by the NC BRC, but the last one was reviewed and accepted [Chat 87:27 link]. Though it is likely that none of these are suspect, considering the species' abundance in offshore waters in fall, it seems imperative that one or a few far inland records of all tubenose species should be evaluated by the NC BRC.
Mountains No records.
Finding Tips This is seldom missed on pelagic trips from May into Oct.
Attribution LeGrand[2023-10-20], LeGrand[2023-08-10], LeGrand[2023-05-16]
NC Map
Map depicts all counties with a report (transient or resident) for the species.
Click on county for list of all known species.