Broad-billed Prions


Broad-billed Prion (Pachyptila vittata)

The Broad-billed Prion (Pachyptila vittata) is also known as Blue-billed Dove-petrel, Broad-billed Dove-petrel, Long-billed Prion, Common Prion, Icebird or Whalebird.

Range and habitat

The social Broad-billed Prion lives in the oceans and coastal areas in the Southern Hemisphere; where colonies can be found on Gough Island, Tristan da Cunha, South Island, Chatham Islands, on the sub-antarctic Antipodes Islands, and other islands off the coast of New Zealand.


The Broad-billed Prion is a small seabird, but the largest of all Prion species. It measures 25 to 30 cm (9.8 to 12 in) in length and has a wingspan of 57 to 66 cm (22 to 26 in). Its average weight is 160 to 235 g (5.6 to 8.3 oz).

The upper plumage is blue-grey and the plumage below is white. It has a characteristic "M" across its back and wings. It also has a black crown, dark eye stripes, and a black-tipped tail. . It has a broad, flat, black bill with comb-like fringes called lamellae (miniature ridges inside the bills of water-feeding birds or "teeth").

Similar Species:

It resemblesl the Fairy Prion, but has a more distinct head pattern and a less extensive tail band.

Breeding / Nesting

The courtship display happen at night or in their burrows. They aggressively defend their nest with calling, posturing and neck-biting.

Breeding begins on the coastal slopes, lava fields, or cliffs of the breeding islands in July or August, as they lay their single egg in a burrow type nest. Both parents |incubate the egg for 50 days, and then spend another 50 days raising the chick. The main predators are skuas, although on some islands, cats and rats have reduced this prion’s numbers drastically. Colonies disperse from December onwards, although some adults remain in the vicinity of the breeding islands and may visit their burrows in winter.


It mainly feeds on crustaceans (copepods, squid, and fish. It utilizes a technique called hydroplaning, which is where the bird flies with its bill in the water and it skims water in, and then filters the food. They will pick up food of the water surface.

Species Research by Sibylle Johnson

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