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Tahiti Petrel

Pétrel de Tahiti - Photo Fred Jacq

Pétrel de Tahiti – Photo Fred Jacq


15-17 inches.
Appearance and Identification:
38-44 cm. Male and female identical in appearance. The head, throat, back and wings are black with a white belly. Can be confused with the White-breasted petrel, Pterodroma alba, which plumage is the same but has a few barely visible white feathers on the throat. Its strong black beak, is characteristic of the Petrels: it is hooked at its end and surmounted by two horny tubes after which the nostrils open. The legs are black and pink. Unlike the Phoenix Petrel, it flies over its colonies and night. However, it is frequently seen flying, skimming the waves at day time around Tahiti and the Leeward Islands.

Order: Procellariiformes

Family: Procellaridae

Category: Seabirds


Breeds in Tahiti, Moorea and the Leeward Islands (Raiatea, Bora Bora), the Marquesas (Ua Huka, Tahuata), the Gambier (Mangareva) and perhaps the Cook Islands (Rarotonga); it is also found in New Caledonia, Fiji and Samoa.


It is a solitary bird at sea. It nests only on volcanic islands. Nests can be set up to 12 km inland on Tahiti. It digs its burrows in the highlands (cornices, ridges, slopes). The birds visits their nests at night. They climb up the trunks as they need a sufficient height to catch their flight.

Whistling and squeaking first bass then treble, long « ou—–ouit » during the night. Sings in flight, but sometimes on ground and at the entrance to the burrow.

To listen the Tahiti Petrel:

Squids, crustaceans and small fish. It dives in flight to capture its prey.

From January to May, it nests in burrows it digs or in natural cavities in the mountains near the sea. The spawn consists of a white egg, 70 x 45 mm. Both sexes incubate and feed the young.

Original text by Caroline BLANVILLAIN – Supplements and update by various members of the SOP Manu.



Scientifique Name: Pseudobulweria rostrata (Peale, 1848)

Polynesian Names:
Noha (Tahiti, Moorea, Tahuata)

  • Society: Tahiti, Moorea, Leeward Islands
  • Gambier : Mangareva
  • Marquesas : Ua Huka, Tahuata
  • Austral : Raivavae
  • Fiji
  • New Caledonia
  • American Samoa


Although the species is not threatened, it is close from being so for several reasons. First, the many species introduced in Polynesia (cats, pigs, dogs) exert predation on the adults when they land on the ground at night to reach their nests. The impact of rats on broods of this species is not well known. Furthermore, Polynesian use the white feathers of this bird for fishing. Often these petrels, especially young individuals, are attracted by the light and fall to the ground near the roads where they are picked before they can leave. People then think naively that these birds cannot fly while it is easy to allow them to resume their flight by simply placing them on the shore, or climbing at a high altitude to launch them into the air.

Lacher de Pétrel @ Fred Jacq

Lâcher de Pétrel @ Fred Jacq

The species is listed in category A, the list of species protected by the territorial regulations of French Polynesia.
The species is classified as “near threatened” (NT) on the IUCN Red List.