Pterodroma petrel – possibly Herald Petrel

A Pterodroma petrel was recently taken to Centre Wildlife Care in State College PA. Joe Verica posted some photos online and as soon as I saw them I got a hold of Mike Lanzone who was in the area to run over and get some more photos.

This bird was found under a mailbox in Hollidaysburg, PA (Blair County) and not near water. Once petrels are grounded they can not take off from the ground, they need to be in the water to take flight where they run on the water till they can take flight.

The weight of the bird was only 240g, and it had a very sharp keel. If this bird is a Herald Petrel, from the weight table below it lists Herald at 161g, but the bird weighed was from Australia (pacific population- Pterodroma heraldica), not the Atlantic population which averages heavier at 300-400g. This bird was in bad shape, but still alive when I saw it and took measurements. The wing chord was 266mm and up tail was 140mm, exposed culmen 28.5 mm. The examination was brief as Mike did not want to unduly stress out the bird, however the bird was in rough shape. It was taking fluids, but not responding well.

We are very interested in opinions of the identification of this bird, a possible first state record for Pennsylvania (with the exception of a bird seen and videotaped several decades ago at Hawk Mountain that was originally identified as Kermadec Petrel, that is likely a Herald Petrel, see summary by Paul Hess).

PA has 4 previous accepted records for Pterodroma petrels- all Black-capped Petrels. This bird may prove to be the most interesting ornithological find of Hurricane Sandy.

Update 11/4 – Consensus is that this is a Herald Petrel. It has since died and should be heading to a museum collection.