American Birding Podcast



#ABArare – Townsend’s Storm-Petrel – California

On July 29, a boat out of San Diego, California, had an ABA Code 3 Townsend’s Storm-Petrel among the more expected pelagic species. Townsend’s Storm-Petrel was one of the Pacific Ocean subspecies of Leach’s Storm-Petrel split from that species in 2016.

Until 2016, Townsend’s Storm-Petrel was considered a subspecies of Leach’s Storm-Petrel. The species nests exclusively on Guadalupe Island, Mexico, where it is under significant threat from feral cats. It has been found to occur infrequently in the ABA Area, primarily in the late summer which would put this sighting right on target in so far as being expected.

Townsend’s Storm-Petrel averages smaller and darker than Leach’s, but the differences can be subtle and the identification of the species in the field is difficult. For more information on this group of cryptic populations, see this Steve N.G. Howell, et al, article fromNorth American Birds (.pdf).