Birds of North Carolina:
their Distribution and Abundance
Leach's Storm-Petrel - Hydrobates leucorhous
Search Common:                 Search Scientific:
General Comments As the Leach's Storm-Petrel is one of the few tubenoses to breed in the northwestern Atlantic, and as it winters off Africa and South America, it was assumed to be simply a spring and fall migrant off North Carolina for much of the 20th Century. However, the increased number of midsummer pelagic trips in the past 20-25 years has yielded moderate numbers of Leach's Storm-Petrels during Jul and Aug, indicating that presumably non-breeding birds occur in our waters for most of late spring, summer, and early fall. Also, though it breeds in the cool waters of the Maritime islands, the misconception that Leach's should only occur in the cooler waters off North Carolina has not been true. It is frequently seen in the Gulf Stream; in fact, it prefers the deeper waters (over 100 fathoms) farther from the Gulf Stream edge than does the much more common Wilson's Storm-Petrel.

The species was moved to a different genus by the AOS in June 2019; it formerly was in the genus Oceanodroma.

Breeding Status Nonbreeder
NC BRC List Definitive
State Status
U.S. Status
State Rank SZ
Global Rank G5
Coastal Plain Offshore transient and summer visitor. Generally uncommon (though regular) spring and fall migrant, as well as midsummer "resident", mainly seen off Oregon and Hatteras inlets. Mostly from mid-May to early Oct (however, relatively few trips are taken after Sep); peak counts in late May and late Aug. Many more records in late May and early Jun, corresponding both to the northbound migration but also to a high number of pelagic trips. One early winter record: 3 off Oregon Inlet, 20 Dec 1986. Peak offshore counts: 136, off Hatteras Inlet, 30 May 1998; 133, off Oregon Inlet, 24 Aug 1985. Very rarely seen from shore, mainly from Cape Hatteras Point in May. Peak counts from shore: a remarkable 121 in flight from Cape Hatteras Point, 28 May 2023; 6, Cape Hatteras Point, 21 May 1991; 3, Atlantic Beach (Carteret), 28 Apr 2023. Quite surprising was one photographed over Banks Channel just west of Wrightsville Beach (New Hanover) on 3 Jul 2014, just before Tropical Storm Arthur. Another similar record was one photographed in flight over Mason Inlet (New Hanover) on 10 May 2015, immediately after passage of Tropical Storm Ana. Additional onshore records are one photographed in Beaufort Inlet (Carteret) on 24 Apr 2018, and one found dead at North Topsail Beach (Onslow) on 25 Apr 2018. There are two far inland records: 1, Lake Pinehurst (Moore), 6 or 7 Sep 1996 (after Hurricane Fran) (Nat. Audubon Soc. Field Notes 51:40); 1, Buckhorn Reservoir (Wilson), 2 Sep 2006 (after Tropical Storm Ernesto) [Chat 71:14 link].
Piedmont Accidental to casual non-breeding visitor, during or after hurricanes. Three records: 1, Lake Norman, 23 Sep 1989 (after Hurricane Hugo); 1, Jordan Lake, 6 or 7 Sep 1996 (after Hurricane Fran); 1, Jordan Lake, 2 Sep 2006 (after Tropical Storm Ernesto).
Mountains No records.
Finding Tips This species is more unpredictable than is the Band-rumped Storm-Petrel. Birders have about a 40-50% chance of seeing Leach's Storm-Petrel on deep water trips from late May into early Oct off Oregon or Hatteras inlets. As mentioned above, individuals can be seen inshore of the Gulf, but more often they are found in the Gulf Stream, often beyond the 100-fathom line.
Attribution LeGrand[2023-08-10], LeGrand[2023-03-14], LeGrand[2019-06-26]
NC Map
Map depicts all counties with a report (transient or resident) for the species.
Click on county for list of all known species.