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Overview

Brief Summary

Biology

Southern giant petrels are largely scavengers, and feed mainly on seal and penguin carcasses, offal, refuse from ships and discarded fish (2) (5). They often feed close to trawlers and vessels fishing with longlines (2). They also prey upon penguins and other birds, krill and amphipod crustaceans, fish and squid. During chick rearing, they depend heavily on penguins and seal colonies, as a food resource (5). During the breeding season, loose colonies form at the breeding sites (2). During October or November, pairs lay a single large egg into a low cup-shaped nest made of grass, moss and gravel. The eggs are incubated for 55 to 66 days (6). The chick remains in the nest until it fledges towards the end of March. Giant petrels are very susceptible to disturbance during the breeding season, and tend to abandon the nest if they are threatened (4). Petrels are able to regurgitate foul-smelling oil which they spit at intruders; this habit earned the southern giant petrel the alternative name of 'stinker' (7). After fledging, juvenile birds spend their first two or three years of life at sea on an extensive migration, in which they circumnavigate the Southern Ocean. Although this species may begin to breed at four years, most individuals begin to breed between six and ten years of age (5).
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Description

The southern giant petrel is, as the name suggests, a very large bird, with impressive long, pointed wings and a huge bill (2). Like all species of petrel, this bird has tubular nostrils that are united at the top. There are two colour forms of this species: a rare white form that is flecked with black and a dark form with mottled greyish-brown feathers with a paler belly. In this dark form, the head, neck and upper area of the breast whitens with age (2). The sexes are similar and juveniles are sooty-black in colour (2) (4). All age groups have a large yellowish bill with a green tip, capable of opening intact carcasses (2) (3). This petrel is of a similar size to albatrosses, but it can be distinguished by its large bill, narrower shorter wings and a general humpbacked form (2).
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Distribution

Range Description

Macronectes giganteus breeds on the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas), Staten Island and islands off Chubut Province (Argentina), South Georgia (Georgias del Sur), the South Orkney (Orcadas del Sur) and South Shetland Islands (Shetland del Sur), islands near the Antarctic Continent and Peninsula, Prince Edward Islands (South Africa), Crozet Islands (French Southern Territories), Heard Island and Macquarie Island (Australia), with smaller populations on Gough Island, Tristan da Cunha (St Helena to UK), Diego Ramirez and Isla Noir (Chile), Kerguelen Islands (French Southern Territories), and four localities on the Antarctic Continent including Terre Adlie. In the 1980s, the population was estimated at 38,000 pairs (Hunter 1985), declining by 18% to 31,000 pairs in the late 1990s (Rootes 1988). Populations at Heard and Macquarie declined 50% between the 1960s and late 1980s (Woehler 1991, Woehler 2006). Many Antarctic Peninsula populations decreased to the mid-1980s (e.g. >50% at Signy, South Orkneys) (Patterson et al. undated). The population at Terre Adlie declined from c.80 pairs in the 1960s to 10-15 pairs in 2000. However, recent data indicate a number of populations have stabilised or increased, e.g. Possession Island (Crozet) (Patterson et al. undated), Gough Island (Cuthbert and Sommer in litt 2004)and Heard Island (Woehler 2006). A comprehensive 2004-2005 survey of all breeding colonies on the Falkland Islands recorded 19,523 breeding pairs (Reid and Huin 2005). This represents a dramatic increase over the previous estimate of 5,000-10,000 pairs in the Falkland Islands, and is thought to represent a combination of improved knowledge and a genuine population increase. Similarly, a comprehensive survey of all known breeding sites in the South Georgia archipelago, between 2005 and 2006, indicates a population increase since the 1980s (Poncet et al. in litt. 2008), and the global population is now estimated at c.54,000 breeding pairs (Chown et al. unpubl. report 2008). Data from birds tracked from South Georgia indicate that breeders remain in the same ocean sector during the nonbreeding season (Hunter and Brooke 1982). By comparison, ringing recoveries suggest that juveniles disperse much more widely (Hunter 1984b). Males and females have distinct foraging ranges during the breeding season (Gonzalez-Solis and Croxall 2005).

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Range

Circumpolar southern oceans south to the pack ice.
  • Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2014. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: Version 6.9. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/

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Range

Southern giant petrels are circumpolar in distribution. The breeding colonies are found from the sub-Antarctic islands south to the Antarctic continent (5).
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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
It typically nests in loose colonies on grassy or bare ground. However, in the Falkland Islands it can nest in large, relatively dense colonies (Reid and Huin 2005). Average age of first breeding is c.10 years, and mean adult annual survival at South Georgia is 90% (Hunter 1984a). It feeds on carrion, cephalopods, krill, offal, discarded fish and refuse from ships, often feeding near trawlers and longliners (Hunter and Brooke 1982, Hunter 1983). Males and females exhibit clearly defined spatial segregation in their foraging ranges (Gonzalez-Solis et al. 2000, Quintana and Dell' Arciprete 2002, BirdLife International 2004).


Systems
  • Terrestrial
  • Marine
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Depth range based on 1153 specimens in 1 taxon.
Water temperature and chemistry ranges based on 831 samples.

Environmental ranges
  Depth range (m): 0 - 0
  Temperature range (°C): -1.542 - 17.523
  Nitrate (umol/L): 0.449 - 30.651
  Salinity (PPS): 33.169 - 35.515
  Oxygen (ml/l): 5.518 - 8.188
  Phosphate (umol/l): 0.357 - 2.109
  Silicate (umol/l): 1.053 - 89.471

Graphical representation

Temperature range (°C): -1.542 - 17.523

Nitrate (umol/L): 0.449 - 30.651

Salinity (PPS): 33.169 - 35.515

Oxygen (ml/l): 5.518 - 8.188

Phosphate (umol/l): 0.357 - 2.109

Silicate (umol/l): 1.053 - 89.471
 
Note: this information has not been validated. Check this *note*. Your feedback is most welcome.
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Depth range based on 1153 specimens in 1 taxon.
Water temperature and chemistry ranges based on 831 samples.

Environmental ranges
  Depth range (m): 0 - 0
  Temperature range (°C): -1.542 - 17.523
  Nitrate (umol/L): 0.449 - 30.651
  Salinity (PPS): 33.169 - 35.515
  Oxygen (ml/l): 5.518 - 8.188
  Phosphate (umol/l): 0.357 - 2.109
  Silicate (umol/l): 1.053 - 89.471

Graphical representation

Temperature range (°C): -1.542 - 17.523

Nitrate (umol/L): 0.449 - 30.651

Salinity (PPS): 33.169 - 35.515

Oxygen (ml/l): 5.518 - 8.188

Phosphate (umol/l): 0.357 - 2.109

Silicate (umol/l): 1.053 - 89.471
 
Note: this information has not been validated. Check this *note*. Your feedback is most welcome.

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This petrel is pelagic and nests in colonies on islands. Breeding colonies are found on bare or grassy ground (2), often close to penguin colonies (5).
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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Breeding Category

Breeding
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Source: World Register of Marine Species

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Life Expectancy

Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Maximum longevity: 13.5 years (wild) Observations: Little is known about the longevity of these animals. Maximum longevity from banding studies is 13.5 years (http://www.pwrc.usgs.gov/BBL/homepage/longvrec.htm), but possibly they can live significantly longer.
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Macronectes giganteus

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


There is 1 barcode sequence available from BOLD and GenBank.

Below is the sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.

See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen.

Other sequences that do not yet meet barcode criteria may also be available.

NNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNGTCGGAACTGCCCTCNGCCTANTTATTCGTGCAGAACTTGGTCNACCAGGANCCCTCTTAGGAGATGACCAAATCTATAATGTAATCGTNNNNGCCCATGCTTTCGTAATAATTTTCTTCATAGTGATACCAGTCATAATTGGAGGGTTCGGAAACTGACTAGTCCCCCTCATAATCGGCGCGCCCGACNTGGCATTCCCTNGTATAAACAACATAAGCTTCTGACTACTGCCCCCATCCTTCCTTCTCTTATTAGCCTCATCCACGGTAGAAGCAGGAGCAGGAACAGGATGAACTGTCTACCCCCCTCTAGCTGGTAACCTAGCTCATGCTGGAGCCTCAGTCGACCTAGCTATCTTCTCCCTCCACCTAGCTGGTGTATCCTCCATCTTAGGGGCCATCAACTTCATCACAACAGCCATCAACATAAAACCCCCAGCCCTCTCACAATACCAAACCCCTTTATTCGTATGGTCCGTCCTTATCACTGCCGTCCTACTCTTACTTTCACTTCCAATTTTAGCTGCAGGAATCACCATGCTACTAACAGACCGAAACCTAAACACCACATTCTTCGATCCAGCCGGCGGAGGAGACCCAGTCTTATACCAACATCTCTTCTGATTTTTCGGCCACCCNNAANTCTATATCCTAATCCTA
-- end --

Download FASTA File

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Source: Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD)

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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Macronectes giganteus

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 2
Specimens with Barcodes: 6
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
LC
Least Concern

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2012

Assessor/s
BirdLife International

Reviewer/s
Butchart, S. & Symes, A.

Contributor/s
Phillips, R., Bretagnolle, V., Hilton, G., Ryan, P.G., Croxall, J., Cooper, J., Patterson-Fraser, D., Fraser, W., Deliry, C., Pistorius, P. & Keys, H.

Justification
Recent analysis of trend data for the global population over the past three generations (64 years) gives a best case estimate of a 17 % increase and a worst case scenario of a 7.2 % decline (Chown et al 2008 unpubl.report to SCAR); declines consequently do not approach the threshold for classification as Vulnerable and the species has been downlisted from Near Threatened to Least Concern.


History
  • Least Concern (LC)
  • Near Threatened (NT)
  • Near Threatened (NT)
  • Vulnerable (VU)
  • Vulnerable (VU)
  • Vulnerable (VU)
  • Lower Risk/least concern (LR/lc)
  • Lower Risk/least concern (LR/lc)