Genus Pterodroma, Pseudobulweria and Aphrodroma are also knwon as the Gadfly Petrels. They vary in size from rather small birds such as the Cookilaria-species, measuring about 26 cm, to the much larger and robust representatives of this group like the White-headed Petrel with an overall length of about 43 cm. Their plumages also vary a great deal from species to species; from completely black to light grey mantles and pure white bellies, and with different color phases within species. One feature shared by all of them is the black bill of which the shape also shows much variation. Some species are extremely rare and restricted to a very limited area, other are abundant and wander widely or have unknown pelagic ranges.
The group of the Gadfly Petrels counts over 35 species, mainly from the Southern Hemisphere. There are three genera: Pterodroma with about 30 species, Pseudobulweria counting four and Aphrodroma with only one. Many authors have tried to classify the large number of species of this group and to determine their relationships. This has resulted in a division in several subgenera and the grouping of several species which are considered to have a more or less close relationship. The taxonomic discussion has not come to an end yet: new species have been added or split recently and probably will be in the near future.
Needs to be distinguished from Zino’s Petrel (present within range of Fea’s Petrel) and Soft-plumaged Petrel (vagrant from southern oceans); see those species. Note that vagrants to European waters considered more likely to be this form or southern Soft-plumaged Petrel than extremely rare Zino’s Petrel. Much smaller (by fully one-third) than Fulmar, which also lacks dark head and (in pale birds) dark underwing.
Flight like other gadfly petrels, with dashing, towering, and careening actions all well developed in higher winds. Indulges in remarkable side to side looping manoeuvres, unlike other tubenoses. Does not shun coast and occasionally follows ships.
|wingspan min.:||0||cm||wingspan max.:||0||cm|
|size min.:||13||cm||size max.:||14||cm|
|incubation min.:||13||days||incubation max.:||14||days|
|fledging min.:||14||days||fledging max.:||14||days|
The only known place in Europe where Fea’s Petrel breeds is on Bugio, southernmost island of the Desertas. The majority of burrows are to be found on the southern plateau, despite the fact that the northern plateau is more extensive, though more arid and with less vegetation. On the basis of sub-fossil Pterodroma bones, the species is believed formerly to have bred on Deserta Grande, Porto Santo and the main island of Madeira. It seems increasingly likely that it breeds in the Azores. Outside Europe it breeds in the Cape Verde Islands, where the population is believed to be of 1,000 breeding birds or roughly 500 pairs. The population on Bugio is considered to be around 150-200 breeding pairs and appears to be stable. Not much is known about the population on the Cape Verde Islands, though there are estimates of a total population of up to 1,000 breeding pairs. In the Madeira archipelago it nests only on Bugio, and the greatest concentration is on the southern plateau of this island. A few nest on the northern plateau, but, as this is not accessible by foot and extremely difficult to reach even by helicopter, that area is almost impossible to study.
Over the years the birds have suffered predation by fishermen, but since the whole land surface of the Desertas were made a strict reserve this situation has improved dramatically.