Prion (Broad billed prion) Pachyptila vittata
Species: P. vittata
Binomial name: Pachyptila vittata
Common names: Broad billed prion, Blue billy, Whalebird, Blue-billed dove-petrel, Broad-billed dove-petrel, Long-billed prion, Common prion, Icebird, parara,
Pachyptila vittata (Broad billed prion) is a small seabird, but the largest of the prions, with grey upperparts plumage, and white underparts. It has the traditional prion colours: blue-grey upperparts, white underparts, and the ever present "M" across its back and wings. It also has a black crown, a dark eye stripe, and a black-tipped tail. Its bill is also black. The head pattern is more distinct and the tail band is less extensive than that of the similar fairy prion. It has a broad flat bill with comb-like fringes called lamellae. This is a large prion measuring 25 to 30 cm long, with a wingspan of 57 to 66 cm and weighing on average 160 to 235 g.
They have nasal passages that attach to the upper bill called naricorns. As a member of the Procellariiformes they produce stomach oil made up of wax esters and triglycerides that is stored in the proventriculus. Proventriculus is the narrow glandular first region of a bird's stomach between the crop and the gizzard. This oil is used against predators as well as an energy rich food source for chicks and for the adults during their long flights. Finally, they also have a salt gland that is situated above the nasal passage and helps desalinate their bodies, due to the high amount of ocean water that they imbibe. It excretes a high saline solution from their nose.
Broad-billed prions breed on many of the muttonbird islands in Foveaux Strait and around Stewart Island, and also on the Snares, Solander and Codfish Islands, and a few outer islands in Fiordland. The largest colony in the New Zealand region is on Rangatira Island in the Chatham Islands, and they also breed on many other islands in the Chatham Islands. Elsewhere, broad-billed prions breed in enormous numbers on Gough and Nightingale Islands in the South Atlantic, with smaller numbers on the nearby Tristan da Cunha and Inaccessible Islands. They are most often seen over the open sea near breeding colonies, and do not enter sheltered coastal waters. Vagrants occasionally strand on Australian beaches, particularly in Tasmania, Victoria and New South Wales.
Most New Zealand colonies are under low forest or among dense ground cover. When at low densities the birds breed in caves and rock crevices, or in burrows around rock outcrops. At higher densities their burrows honeycomb the ground. (www.nzbirdsonline.org.nz).
They are gregarious, and eat crustaceans (copepods), squid, and fish. They utilize a technique called hydroplaning, where the bird flies with its bill in the water, skimming water in, and then filtering the food. They also surface-seize. This prion doesn't follow fishing boats regularly.
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