Family Petrels, Shearwaters (Procellariidae)

Least Concern

White-headed Petrel (Pterodroma lessonii)


French: Pétrel de Lesson German: Weißkopf-Sturmvogel Spanish: Petrel cabeciblanco

Procellaria Lessonii


, 1826,

“Dans les parages du Cap Horn et de la mer Pacifique par 52° de lat. sept. [= austr.] et 85° de longit.”


Genetic data indicate that this species forms a clade with P. magentae, P. incerta, P. macroptera and P. gouldi#R; also, feather lice shared with these taxa#R. Has been considered conspecific with P. macroptera, but timing of breeding cycles quite different; no mixed pairs reported, despite extensive sympatry. P. incerta sometimes considered sister-species. Monotypic.


Temperate to subantarctic Southern Ocean, breeding in New Zealand region at Macquarie I, Auckland Is, Antipodes Is and possibly Campbell I; S Indian Ocean at Crozets, Kerguelen Is and possibly Prince Edward Is.

Descriptive notes

40–46 cm; 580–810 g; wingspan 109 cm. Distinctive white-headed petrel with dark patch through eye, becoming pale pearl-grey on nape, large pearl-grey to... read more


Only vocal around colonies (virtually throughout season), usually in flight, more rarely from... read more


Marine and highly pelagic, rarely approaching land except at colonies; visits inshore waters during... read more

Food and feeding

Apparently mostly squid and crustaceans; fish also recorded. On Kerguelen Is, diet of chicks mainly squid (present in 77% of samples),... read more


Starts Oct, with return to colony in late Aug; pre-laying exodus poorly documented though apparently lasts from mid Oct to mid Nov on... read more


Disperses widely over Southern Ocean, probably in circumpolar range, generally S of 30° S, with... read more

Status and conservation

Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Total population probably c. 600,000 birds, though figures lacking for several areas; key breeding sites include Antipodes (Antipodes... read more

Recommended citation

Carboneras, C., Jutglar, F. & Kirwan, G.M. (2020). White-headed Petrel (Pterodroma lessonii). 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 18 February 2020).