birding-aus Giant petrel ID

Subject: birding-aus Giant petrel ID
From: Rod Gardner <>
Date: Wed, 11 Aug 1999 16:24:33 +1000

Here's a little story about the hubristic dangers of thinking seabird
identification can become easy. On last Saturday's Sydney pelagic we had a
giant petrel that flew into the boat, which  a few of us confidently
identified as a Southern Giant Petrel. The bill looked totally - and I mean
totally - pale. Somehow Tony Palliser picked up that something was wrong
with the call, but it still looked a surefire Southern to me. The bird
gradually swam towards the boat, and when it was about 20 metres away, the
faintest of pink washes could be seen on the tip of the bill. This wasn't a
case of one of those doubtful ones where you can't make out if the bill tip
is pale or dark (because of light conditions, or because it's only very
slightly dark). So where does this leave all the other SGPs I (and others?)
have so confidently claimed from land?

It would seem that you can only be sure if you see the green wash (or the
red wash). A totally pale looking bill (or, for that matter, one that looks
dark) without the colour would have to be put down as giant petrel sp. At
least I can claim that the NGPs I've reported have been okay, as I've
looked very carefully for the red, as they have been considered much the
rarer ones off NSW. Does this mean that perhaps NGPs are commoner than we
thought? I remember Alan Morris saying that NGPs are beachwashed in
proportionately greater numbers than live sightings. Perhaps this explains

And perhaps this is another argument for remaining conservative (and
sceptical) about those claims that are not submitted to rarities committees.

Rod Gardner.

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