The Snow petrel is one of only three bird species that breed in Antarctica. This small but beautiful seabird is pure white in color and has black underdown, coal-black eyes, small black bill, and bluish-gray feet.
Snow petrels breed on the Antarctic Peninsula and various Antarctic islands which include South Sandwich Islands, Géologie Archipelago, South Georgia Islands, and other islands of the Scotia Arc. Some birds remain at the colony all year, while others range north at sea and return at the colonies from mid-September until early November. Snow petrels are almost entirely restricted to cold Antarctic waters; they frequently roost on icebergs and nest on cliffs, usually near the sea, but also inland.
Snow petrels are gregarious birds. During the winter, they disperse to the pack ice, ice floes, and the open sea where flocks are often seen sitting on icebergs. Snow petrels are agile fliers that hunt by day; they fly close to the surface and may make shallow dives to catch their prey. They may even feed together with whales and other petrels. Snow petrels are usually silent when at sea, but will communicate with twittering calls when fishing in flocks. They also cluck, screech, and make harsh, guttural sounds when on land.
Snow petrels are monogamous and once paired partners are faithful for life. The breeding season starts in late October-early November and eggs are usually laid between late November and mid-December. Snow petrels nest in small to large colonies on cliffs. Nests are simple pebble-lined scrapes usually in deep rock crevices with overhanging protection. The female lays one white egg which is incubated 41 to 49 days. Once hatched the chick is brooded for 8 days and fledges 7 weeks later in late February to mid-May.
Snow petrels are widespread throughout their range and not considered threatened at present. However, in the future, these birds may suffer from climate change that will reduce the sea-ice cover and may cause a decrease of prey in some areas.
According to the IUCN Red List, the total Snow petrel population size is over 4,000,000 individuals. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List and its numbers today are stable.