Family Sheathbills (Chionidae)

Least Concern

Black-faced Sheathbill (Chionis minor)


French: Petit Chionis German: Schwarzgesicht-Scheidenschnabel Spanish: Picovaina de las Kerguelen

Chionis minor


, 1841,

no locality = Kerguelen Islands


There is no genetic mixing among subspecies, except in rare cases of ship-assisted vagrants. Electrophoretic and mtDNA data reveal differentiation of Crozet (crozettensis) and Kerguelen (minor) populations, and suggest that they diverged fairly recently#R, while observed morphological variation between them may reflect ecological factors; geographical isolation possibly main factor promoting variation within this species, and differences between populations perhaps due not only to environmental correlates of latitude, but also to possible genetic drift#R. Name nivea is a synonym of nominate. Four subspecies usually recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • C. m. marionensis Reichenow, 1908 – Prince Edward and Marion Is.
  • C. m. crozettensis (Sharpe, 1896) – Western Black-faced Sheathbill – Crozet Is.
  • C. m. minor Hartlaub, 1841 – Eastern Black-faced Sheathbill – Kerguelen Is.
  • C. m. nasicornis Reichenow, 1904 – Heard I and McDonald Is.
  • Descriptive notes

    38–41 cm; 450–760 g; wingspan 74–79 cm. Bill, bill sheath and facial caruncles all black, eyering pink; leg colour variable among and within populations,... read more


    Generally considered to be rather silent, in common with C. albus, with exception of short... read more


    In summer, nearly all birds occur in colonies of penguins, particularly those of Rockhopper (... read more

    Food and feeding

    Omnivorous. Krill, fish, squid and other marine prey stolen from penguins; also eggs and small chicks, especially of penguins, carrion,... read more


    All pairs nest in association with penguins or other colonial seabirds such as cormorants, except in parts of Kerguelen (mainly N & E... read more


    Sedentary. Some intra- and inter-island movement within an archipelago, in response to food... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Total population 6500–10,000 breeding pairs: 3000–6000 pairs in Kerguelen Is; 1400 on Marion and Prince Edward Is; c.... read more

    Recommended citation

    Burger, A.E. & Kirwan, G.M. (2019). Black-faced Sheathbill (Chionis minor). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 25 June 2019).