Family Petrels, Shearwaters (Procellariidae)


White-necked Petrel (Pterodroma cervicalis)


French: Pétrel à col blanc German: Weißnacken-Sturmvogel Spanish: Petrel cuelliblanco
Other common names: White-naped Petrel (cervicalis)

Oestrelata cervicalis


, 1891,

Kermadec Islands


Often included in P. externa. Has been considered a subspecies of P. hasitata. Taxon occulta (“Vanuatu Petrel”) was established for a population previously included in P. externa, and later referred to P. cervicalis, to which it appears closely related on basis of molecular data. No comparison of vocalizations of this form with those of latter from Macauley (in Kermadec Is) yet published. Some authors declined to recognize occulta as a full species#R, and others, having observed birds at sea and examined museum specimens, concluded that “overall, Vanuatu Petrel is only slightly smaller” and that underwing pattern shows “significant overlap”, and hence “we prefer to complete our own genetic and acoustic work on this matter before commenting on the taxonomy of the Vanuatu Petrel”#R. Meanwhile (and to date), the differences in total appear to be: smaller size including smaller eggs (1); proportionately longer tail (1); greyer underwing (1); dark outer tail (1); earlier breeding period, albeit by only 6 weeks#R (ns). Two subspecies recognized.

What do (1) and (2) mean? Learn more about the scoring system.
Subspecies and Distribution
  • P. c. cervicalis (Salvin, 1891) – White-necked Petrel – subtropical NW (rarely, also E) Pacific Ocean, breeding on Macauley I (Kermadec Is), with a new small colony established on Phillip I (S of Norfolk I)#R.
  • P. c. occulta Imber & Tennyson, 2001 – Vanuatu Petrel – SW Pacific Ocean, breeding in Banks Is (N Vanuatu): breeding so far recorded only on Vanua Lava#R; reported probable breeding also on Mere Lava now appears unlikely.
  • Descriptive notes

    43 cm (occulta 40 cm); 380–545 g (occulta 300–350 g); wingspan 95–100 cm (occulta c. 82 cm). Large grey-and-white, long-billed and dark... read more


    Two main calls, a rapidly repeated “te-te-te...” or “ka-ka-ka...” in flight above colony, while... read more


    Marine and highly pelagic; often in areas of upwelling; rarely approaches land except at colonies.... read more

    Food and feeding

    Very little known; squid recorded for nominate cervicalis, and flying fish (Exocoetidae), seized in the air, and squid (Teuthida... read more


    Starts Oct–Dec, with pre-laying exodus lasting c. 1 month commencing Nov, egg-laying from 26 Dec to 2 Jan (but exclusively in Jan on... read more


    Transequatorial migrant, ranging over tropical and subtropical waters of NW Pacific, N to SE Japan... read more

    Status and conservation

    VULNERABLE. Total population estimated at c. 50,000 breeding pairs and 150,000 individuals. Until recently, just single known breeding station on Macauley I, Kermadec Is,... read more

    Recommended citation

    Carboneras, C., Jutglar, F. & Kirwan, G.M. (2020). White-necked Petrel (Pterodroma cervicalis). 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 22 February 2020).