• Desertas Petrel 


Scientific name
Pterodroma feae/deserta (Matheus 1934)

Taxonomic Status
Endemic Species Archipelago of Madeira

Red Data Book Status

    • Available tours to watch this bird 

Birding Pelagic Trip | Desertas Island Expedition

  • Identification

A medium sized gadfly petrel slightly bigger than a Manx Puffinus puffinus but smaller than a Cory's Shearwater Calonectris diomedea. The plumage is dark grey on the upperparts of its body while the underwings are almost entirely blackish leaving only a whitish patch at the foremost base. The underparts are whitish with the sides of the breast washed with grey.

  • Voice

The calls can be described like a ooooooh…oooh sometimes with a wik…wik at the end. (listen to Deserta's Petrel calls)

  • Ecology

Pelagic seabird that outside the breeding season can be found in the open ocean. Nests colonially in burrows or rock crevices where it lays a single egg. Breeding season starts in June and juveniles fledge throughout December. The nests occur in small slopes where they excavate burrows in soil. Some nests can be found in rock crevices in the vertical cliffs of the islands.

  • Distribution

The Deserta´s Petrel is endemic to Madeira archipelago and breeds on Bugio one of the Deserta´s islands. Recent studies about the distribution indicates that during the breeding season the birds remain in the North Atlantic waters while on the wintering areas, birds were detected on Brazilian coast, Cape Verde archipelago, the southeast coast of the United States, and in the pelagic waters of the central South Atlantic.


The first record in Madeira archipelago of this specie was made in 1852, with a bird that was collected at Desertas. This bird is present in the Natural History British Museum.


  • Desertas Petrel Sightings


September 2013 - Madeira Island © Birds & Company


Bugio, Desertas Islands © Gonçalo Silva


  • Literature

[1] Ramírez I, Paiva VH, Menezes D, Silva I, Phillips RA, Ramos JA, Garthe S (2013) Year-round distribution and habitat preferences of the Bugio petrel. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 476:269-284. Menezes, D., Oliveira, P. Ramirez, I. 2011.

[2] Menezes, D., Oliveira, P. Ramirez, I. (2011) Medidas Urgentes para a Recuperação da Freira do Bugio Pterodroma feae e do seu Habitat. Final Report. Serviço Parque Natural da Madeira/ Sociedade Portuguesa para o Estudo das Aves (SEO).

[3] Robb, M., Mullarney, K. & The Sound Approach. 2008. Dorset, UK: The Sound Approach. 300 pp.

[4] López-Velasco, D. & Sagardía J. (2012). Identificación de Petrel Gon-Gon de Desertas P. (feae) deserta y Petrel de Madeira P. madeira en el mar.Reservoir Birds, Abril de 2012.

[5] Shirihai, H.; Bretagnolle, V.; Zino, F. 2010. Identification of Feae's, Desertas and Zino's Petrels at sea. Birding World 23(6): 239-275.

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