Birds of North Carolina:
their Distribution and Abundance
Black-bellied Storm-Petrel - Fregetta tropica
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General Comments Unlike with the European Storm-Petrel, which had long been anticipated to be found in North Carolina waters, the occurrence of the Black-bellied Storm-Petrel, a Southern Hemisphere species previously not known from North American waters, was certainly not expected in our waters. Yet, North Carolina now has a remarkable four records, all documented by photographs; in fact, these are the only known records off of North America! Though one would think that identification of the species would be easy, in reality it is not. This species is blackish, with a large white rump, like most other storm-petrels. The whitish underparts can be difficult to see, especially as storm-petrels typically stay within 3-5 feet of the water. In fact, the first state record was initially called a White-bellied Storm-Petrel (Fregetta grallaria), which lacks the black vertical stripe on the belly but is otherwise extremely similar (as they share the same genus); the latter also had not been previously seen in North American waters. Fortunately, photos clearly show the dark belly stripe, on each of the four records.
Breeding Status Nonbreeder
NC BRC List Definitive
State Status
U.S. Status
State Rank SA
Global Rank GNR
Coastal Plain Offshore visitor; casual (to perhaps now very rare) in Gulf Stream waters from late May to mid-Aug. Four records, all of single birds: off Oregon Inlet, 31 May 2004*; off Hatteras Inlet, 16 Jul 2006*; off Hatteras Inlet, 23 Jun 2007*; and off Hatteras Inlet, 14 Aug 2010*. No inland records. A photograph of the 2007 bird is on the Carolina Bird Club Photo Gallery.
Piedmont No records.
Mountains No records.
Finding Tips Keep taking organized birding pelagic trips, especially off Hatteras Inlet, and one of these years, you'll get lucky! From above, they appear quite similar to the very common Wilson's Storm-Petrel, with a somewhat similar flight style, even though they are in different genera.
Attribution LeGrand[2023-03-14], LeGrand[2018-02-01], LeGrand[2014-06-08]
NC Map
Map depicts all counties with a report (transient or resident) for the species.
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