Family Petrels, Shearwaters (Procellariidae)

Least Concern

Snow Petrel (Pagodroma nivea)


French: Pétrel des neiges German: Schneesturmvogel Spanish: Petrel níveo

Procellaria nivea

G. Forster

, 1777,

latitude 52° S, longitude 20° E


Races may constitute two separate species, as sympatry without interbreeding reported from E Antarctica; alternative view claims that most colonies are mixed, with extensive zone of hybridization; subspecific distribution confused, and some authors prefer to recognize a single monotypic species#R#R. Race major previously listed as confusa, but major has priority#R. Two subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • P. n. nivea (G. Forster, 1777) – Lesser Snow Petrel – Antarctic Southern Ocean, breeding in Antarctica, Scotia Arc and South Georgia.
  • P. n. major Schlegel, 1863 – Greater Snow Petrel – Antarctica and adjacent islands; South Sandwich Is.
  • Descriptive notes

    30–40 cm; 202–570 g; wingspan 75–95 cm. Unmistakable; all-white, short-billed petrel, with wedge-shaped tail when fanned. Adult has entirely white plumage (... read more


    At sea, although usually silent (like many petrels), foraging flocks have been reported to give... read more


    Marine; closely linked with pack ice, occurring mainly in areas with 10–50% ice cover; does... read more

    Food and feeding

    Mainly krill (Euphausia), fish, squid and carrion, e.g. whale blubber, seal carcasses and placentae, dead seabirds, excreta.... read more


    Starts late Oct/early Nov in most areas, typically males returning first to colonies (exceptionally even in Aug), with copulation occurring... read more


    Little known; relatively sedentary in places, most birds staying within vicinity of colony year-... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Apparently abundant, with no evidence for long-term overall trends, only marked inter-annual variation at colonies, though there was... read more

    Recommended citation

    Carboneras, C., Jutglar, F. & Kirwan, G.M. (2020). Snow Petrel (Pagodroma nivea). 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 30 March 2020).