Macquarie Island: Sandy Bay – Giant Petrels

Giant petrels are massive seabirds, often the size of albatrosses, but much less elegant and gracious looking – more like Ford F150s of the sea rather then Ferraries. Their wingspan is around 2m wide, and the plumage color is mostly brown-grey (although a pure white variation exists on Macquire Island). The bill is huge and has a characteristic tube above it, which is used to expel salt out of the body (thus they have no problems with drinking sea water). Giant petrels are known as “vultures of the Antarctic”, as they are scavengers in search of dead meat – whales, penguins, seals, etc. – mostly around animal colonies or in the open seas, where they eat fish as well. Both species of giant petrels – southern and northern – breed on Macquarie, and they are almost indistinguishable, unless you do a quick DNA check.