The Juletide seabird – Áhpespálfu – Havsvale – European Storm Petrel – Hydrobates pelagicus
What exactly is the Juletide bird in Nordland?
The stately red dompap, or the stylish and colorful yellow sparrow, which likes Juletide aswell?
I just as often think of another species around Juletide time. The young leave the nest around Juletide amongst this species.
The idea that right now they are sitting in their nest caves and are ready to leave the nest, in the middle of the dark-times,
is quite fantastic.
And it is happening just in these darkest of days in the Northern World, on rocky, grassy and windswept islands on the Nordland coast.
This year's Storm Petrel chicks are about to leave their nests, to move out onto the sea and fly south into the Atlantic Ocean.
Some of them fly far south of the equator, to the coast of South Africa.
What could be the reason why these breed so late in the year? The Storm Petrel is a rather small bird, it normally weighs
20-30 gramsas an adult. That is, it weighs less than a dompap, but has much longer wings. Although they are very skilled pilots
out on the open sea, they are vulnerable and completely defenseless on land. They simply cannot fly to and from the nest in daylight
without exposing themselves to the great danger of being caught by hungry seagulls and other predators. Therefore, they have to
wait to nest until the nights start to get so dark that they can fly to and from the nest without being seen.
The nest is usually located under stone slabs, inside rock piles, or in nest passages of Puffins.
The Storm Petrel lays 1 egg there, it is often laid in August here in Nordland. It takes 40-50 days before it hatches, and the chick
needs 56-86 days before it leave the nest, so it can be late December before they fly out!
The first days after hatching, the chicks get food almost daily, but gradually it takes longer between each time.
It can quickly become 4-5 days towards the end of the breeding, and then finally it can take 7 days from the last feeding until
the chicks leave the nest, most likely on their own.
Maybe just right now there are some young Storm Petrels sitting in nests somewhere on the coast of Nordland and waiting
until a little later in the evening before they leave their safe nest for the very first time. They will instinctively seek out the
open seas where they will spend most of their adult lives, only comeing ashore to nest. A Real little juletide miracle!
Some fun facts:
The Storm Petrel egg weighs approx. 25% of the female birds's weight! It is in the same class with the Kiwi's egg, which is known to
have the largest egg in relation to the mother of all birds.
They always lay only 1 egg.
The egg can withstand exceptionally well to be cooled, which is crucial for them to be able to nest so far to the north so late
in the year. However, this means that it takes longer from the time the egg is laid until it hatches.
The young lay down quickly, and can weigh almost twice as much as the parent birds for a while, but then they have to slim down
considerably towards the end of the nesting period to become airworthy. See a picture of a 7-day-old cub here - it was photographed
by researchers studying the pups' ability to regulate heat.
The Storm Petrel is a numerous breeding bird in Great Britain, the Faroe Islands, Iceland and along the Norwegian/Sámi coast,
more numerous in the Mediterranean and in the Canary Islands. It is estimated that there are up to 10,000 pairs,
breedinig in Norway/Sápmi.
Although the Storm Petrel is quite small, it can become quite old. The oldest known Storm Petrel here in Norway/Sápmi,
was just over 29 years old. But a bird which was over 33 years old, has been found on the British Isles.
They begin to nest at the age of four or five.
(Complete text and photo by Atle Ivar Olsen here (BirdLife Nordland)