Family Sheathbills (Chionidae)

Least Concern

Snowy Sheathbill (Chionis albus)


French: Chionis blanc German: Weißgesicht-Scheidenschnabel Spanish: Picovaina de las Malvinas
Other common names: Pale-faced Sheathbill

Vaginalis alba

J. F. Gmelin

, 1789,

New Zealand; error = Falkland Islands




Breeds on Antarctic Peninsula, and along Scotia Arc on South Shetland Is, Elephant I, South Orkney Is and South Georgia; probably also South Sandwich Is (breeding not confirmed). Non-breeding migrant in Falkland Is, Tierra del Fuego and Patagonia, some birds wandering farther N.

Descriptive notes

34–41 cm; 460–810 g; wingspan 75–80 cm. Plump, hen-like bird with all-white plumage. No obvious seasonal variations in plumage or soft parts; pinkish facial... read more


Generally silent, but occasionally utters short, throaty-sounding and crow-like, harsh notes.


Coastal, frequently occurring on islands. Typically found in seabird colonies, especially of... read more

Food and feeding

Omnivorous. Krill, fish, squid and other marine prey stolen from penguins and, more occasionally, cormorants; also takes eggs and small... read more


Arrives at breeding sites Oct–Nov, lays Dec–Jan, chicks hatching Jan–Feb and fledging Mar. Monogamous, with high fidelity... read more


Most birds leave breeding sites between late Apr to Jun, a few leaving later, in Jul, and some... read more

Status and conservation

Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Total population numbers c. 10,000 pairs widely distributed through breeding range: Antarctic Peninsula has 17+ sites, with 200 pairs... read more

Recommended citation

Burger, A.E. & Kirwan, G.M. (2020). Snowy Sheathbill (Chionis albus). 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 21 February 2020).