Volume 45, No. 1

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Plumage variation, morphology and identification of Collared Pterodroma brevipes and Gould's P. leucoptera petrels




PORTELLI, D.J. 2017. Plumage variation, morphology and identification of Collared Pterodroma brevipes and Gould's P. leucoptera petrels. Marine Ornithology 45: 59 - 65

Received 24 October 2016, accepted 4 January 2017

Date Published: 2017/04/15
Date Online: 2017/02/28
Key words: White-winged Petrel, Procellariidae, polymorphism, seabird identification, taxonomy


Collared Petrel Pterodroma brevipes and Gould's Petrel P. leucoptera are two closely related gadfly petrels that breed on islands in the Pacific Ocean. Pale individuals of the polymorphic Collared Petrel are remarkably similar to Gould's Petrel, so it is unsurprising that published descriptions of differences between the two species are incomplete or misleading. Museum specimens of both species and live Gould's Petrels were examined to identify diagnostic plumage characteristics. Pale Collared Petrels were most reliably distinguished from Gould's Petrels by their proportionally longer and tapered tail and by a clear contrast between the grey primaries and white primary coverts on the underwing. Pale Collared Petrels also exhibited a different pigment pattern on the side of the head; a subtle contrast between the breast sides and crown, which is absent in Gould's Petrel; a thicker dark trailing edge on the underwing; and a usually diffuse, rather than abrupt (as in Gould's Petrel), posterior edge of the breast patch. The presence of a collar across the upper breast was not diagnostic of intermediate Collared Petrels. Additional characteristics that may facilitate identification of some Gould's Petrels include a thinner dark ulnar-carpal bar on the underwing, prominent white blotches within the dark ulnar-carpal bar, and conspicuous white sides to the spread tail.


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