/pe"treuhl/, n.
any of numerous tube-nosed seabirds of the families Procellariidae, Hydrobatidae, and Pelecanoididae. Cf. storm petrel, diving petrel.
[1670-80; earlier pitteral, of uncert. orig.; perh. altered by assoc. with St. Peter (who attempted to walk on the water of Lake Gennesareth), alluding to the bird's habit of flying close to the ocean surface]

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Any of numerous seabirds (order Procellariiformes, particularly family Procellariidae), including 24 species (genera Pterodroma and Bulweria) called gadfly petrels because of their fluttering flight.

Most are dark above and light below, with long wings and a short, wedge-shaped tail. They nest in colonies on tropical and subtropical islands. Both parents tend the single chick until it is almost fully fledged. During the nonbreeding season, petrels roam the open ocean, eating squid and small fishes. Species in the family Pelecanoididae are called diving petrels. See also fulmar, shearwater, storm petrel.

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 any of a number of seabirds of the order Procellariiformes, particularly certain members of the family Procellariidae, which also includes the fulmars and the shearwaters (shearwater). Members of the family Hydrobatidae are increasingly called storm petrels; (storm petrel) those of the Pelecanoididae are usually called diving petrels (diving petrel) (see diving petrel; storm petrel).

      Among the procellariid petrels, some two dozen species of the genera Pterodroma and Bulweria are called gadfly petrels (gadfly petrel) because their flight is more fluttering than that of the related shearwaters (see shearwater). Certain heavy-bodied petrels are known as fulmars (fulmar), and one, Macronectes giganteus, is called both giant fulmar and giant petrel (see fulmar).

      Gadfly petrels nest in loose colonies on islands in the tropical and subtropical regions of the major oceans. A single egg (rarely two) is laid on the soil surface or in a burrow or crevice. The chick is tended by both parents and deserted about a week before it is fully fledged; it completes its development on stored fat. During the nonbreeding season, these birds roam the open ocean, feeding on squid and small fish. Most gadfly petrels are dark above and light beneath, with long wings and short, wedge-shaped tails. Because they are quite similar in appearance, the species are difficult to distinguish.

      Some of the better known gadfly petrels are the endangered Bermuda petrel, or cahow (Pterodroma cahow, sometimes considered a race of P. hasitata); the dark-rumped petrel, also called the Hawaiian petrel (P. phaeopygia), another endangered species, now concentrated almost entirely on the island of Maui; the phoenix petrel (P. alba), which breeds on several tropical archipelagos; and the black-capped petrel, or diablotin (P. hasitata), formerly found throughout the West Indies but now known only in Haiti. Several other species, including the Chatham Island (or magenta) petrel, the Galápagos dark-rumped petrel, and the Réunion petrel, are also on the endangered list.

      Several other procellariids are also called petrels. Among them are the pintado petrel, or Cape pigeon (Daption capensis), a sub-Antarctic species about 40 centimetres (16 inches) long, marked with bold patches of black and white. The snow petrel (Pagodroma nivea), 35 cm, a pure white species, and the Antarctic petrel (Thalassoica antarctica), 42 cm, a brown-and-white-pied species, are rarely seen outside Antarctic waters.

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  • petrel — ► NOUN ▪ a seabird of a kind that typically flies far from land. ORIGIN from the name of St Peter, because of the bird s habit of flying low with legs dangling, and so appearing to walk on the water (as did St Peter in the Gospel of Matthew) …   English terms dictionary

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