The European storm petrel, British storm petrel or just storm petrel (''Hydrobates pelagicus'') is a seabird in the storm petrel family, Hydrobatidae. It is the only member of the genus ''Hydrobates''. The small, square-tailed bird is entirely black except for a broad white rump and a white band on the underwings, and it has a fluttering, bat-like flight. The large majority of the population breeds on islands off the coasts of Europe, with the greatest numbers in the Faroe Islands, United Kingdom, Ireland and Iceland. The Mediterranean population is a separate subspecies, but is inseparable at sea from its Atlantic relatives; its strongholds are Filfla Island (Malta), Sicily and the Balearic Islands.
The storm petrel nests in crevices and burrows, sometimes shared with other seabirds or rabbits, and lays a single white egg, usually on bare soil. The adults share the lengthy incubation and both feed the chick, which is not normally brooded after the first week. This bird is strongly migratory, spending the northern hemisphere winter mainly off the coasts of South Africa and Namibia, with some birds stopping in the seas adjoining West Africa, and a few remaining near their Mediterranean breeding islands. This petrel is strictly oceanic outside the breeding season. It feeds on small fish, squid and zooplankton while pattering on the sea's surface, and can find oily edible items by smell. The food is converted in the bird's stomach to an oily orange liquid which is regurgitated when the chick is fed. Although usually silent at sea, the storm petrel has a chattering call given by both members of a pair in their courtship flight, and the male has a purring song given from the breeding chamber.
The storm petrel cannot survive on islands where land mammals such as rats and cats have been introduced, and it suffers natural predation from gulls, skuas, owls and falcons. Although the population may be declining slightly, this petrel is classified by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as being of Least Concern due to its high total numbers. Its presence in rough weather at sea has led to various mariners' superstitions, and, by analogy, to its use as a symbol by revolutionary and anarchist groups.
== Taxonomy ==
The storm petrels, Hydrobatidae, are one of the four major families of the Procellariiformes or "tubenoses", an order of seabirds that also includes the albatrosses, the Procellariidae, and the diving petrels.〔 The family is an ancient group of small species which is thought to have diverged early from the rest of the tubenoses; the supporting fossil record is poor, with specimens from California dating back only to the Late Miocene (11.6–5.3 million years ago). The Hydrobatidae are often divided into two subfamilies, the mainly southern hemisphere Oceanitinae and the northern Hydrobatinae;〔 cytochrome ''b'' DNA sequence analysis suggests that these might be full families.〔 The European storm petrel is the only member of the genus ''Hydrobates'', the remainder of the Hydrobatinae being placed in ''Oceanodroma'', although the least storm petrel is sometimes separated as the sole member of ''Halocyptena''.〔 The relationships within the Hydrobatinae are complex and uncertain, and it has been suggested that all the members of the subfamily could be subsumed into an enlarged ''Hydrobates''.〔
The storm petrel was first described from by Linnaeus in his ''Systema naturae'' in 1758 as ''Procellaria pelagica''.〔 It was moved to the genus ''Hydrobates'' by Friedrich Boie in 1822.〔〔 ''Petrel'', first recorded in 1602, is a corruption of ''pitteral'', referring to the bird's pitter-pattering across the water. The suggestion that the word refers to St Peter walking on the waves is a later invention. ''Storm'' arises from seamen's association of this bird with bad weather.〔 In English, the name of the species was written as "stormy petrel" by some 19th-century authors.〔
The scientific name derives from Greek; ''Hydrobates'' is from ''hudro'', water, and ''bates'', walker,〔: 'one that treads or covers'〕 and ''pelagicus'' is from ''pelagikos'', of the sea.〔〔 There are two recognised subspecies, the North Atlantic nominate subspecies, ''H. p. pelagicus'' (Linnaeus, 1758), and the Mediterranean ''H. p. melitensis'' (Schembri, 1843).〔 Although there is some genetic support for classifying the southern form as a separate species,〔 the morphology is not considered sufficiently different from that of the nominate subspecies to justify a split.〔
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