Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun Any of various black, gray, or white pelagic seabirds of the order Procellariiformes, found mostly in the Southern Hemisphere.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun An obsolete form of poitrel.
  • noun A small black-and-white seabird, Procellaria pelagica; hence, any similar bird of pelagic or oceanic habits, with webbed feet, long pointed wings, and tubular nostrils, belonging to the family Procellariidæ and subfamily Procellariinæ.
  • noun The kittiwake, a gull.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun (Zoöl.) Any one of numerous species of longwinged sea birds belonging to the family Procellaridæ. The small petrels, or Mother Carey's chickens, belong to Oceanites, Oceanodroma, Procellaria, and several allied genera.
  • noun any bird of the genus Pelecanoides. They chiefly inhabit the southern hemisphere.
  • noun See Fulmar.
  • noun the Cape pigeon. See under Cape.
  • noun any one of several small petrels, especially Procellaria pelagica, or Mother Carey's chicken, common on both sides of the Atlantic.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun Any of various species of black, grey, or white seabirds in the order Procellariiformes.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • noun relatively small long-winged tube-nosed bird that flies far from land

Etymologies

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Perhaps alteration of earlier pitteral (perhaps influenced by Saint Peter, walking on the water, from the fact that the bird flies so close to the water as to appear to be walking on it).]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

Perhaps a diminutive of Peter, with reference to St. Peter's walking on the water (Matthew 14:29).

Examples

  • "He also observed young juveniles in flight, which indicated the birds were breeding nearby, and recovered a dead Beck's petrel from the sea - now only the third museum-held specimen." ...

    Archive 2008-03-01

  • "The Beck's petrel is a sea bird that may be nocturnal and is thought to breed in the Bismarck Archipelago, in an area of circular, mountainous islands."

    Archive 2008-03-01

  • You must make your escape quietly when the moon has set, and fly like a poor petrel from the foot of some sombre reef.

    Indiana

  • "The rats have placed in serious risk – on the edge of extinction – the Galapagos petrel, which is a marine bird unique in the world and of which only 120 remain," the project's manager, Victor Carrion, told The Associated Press by telephone from the islands.

    Full-Scale Assault Launched Against Invasive Galapagos Rats

  • "The rats have placed in serious risk - on the edge of extinction - the Galapagos petrel, which is a marine bird unique in the world and of which only 120 remain," the project's manager, Victor Carrion, told The Associated Press by telephone from the islands.

    Yahoo! News: Business - Opinion

  • "The rats have placed in serious risk - on the edge of extinction - the Galapagos petrel, which is a marine bird unique in the world and of which only 120 remain," the project's manager, Victor Carrion, told The Associated Press by telephone from the islands.

    FOXNews.com

  • "The rats have placed in serious risk - on the edge of extinction - the Galapagos petrel, which is a marine bird unique in the world and of which only 120 remain," the project's manager, Victor Carrion, told The Associated Press by telephone from the islands.

    StarTribune.com rss feed

  • "The rats have placed in serious risk - on the edge of extinction - the Galapagos petrel, which is a marine bird unique in the world and of which only 120 remain," the project's manager, Victor Carrion, told The Associated Press by telephone from the islands.

    msnbc.com: Top msnbc.com headlines

  • "The rats have placed in serious risk - on the edge of extinction - the Galapagos petrel, which is a marine bird unique in the world and of which only 120 remain," the project's manager, Victor Carrion, told The Associated Press by telephone from the islands.

    SFGate: Top News Stories

  • "The rats have placed in serious risk - on the edge of extinction - the Galapagos petrel, which is a marine bird unique in the world and of which only 120 remain," the project's manager, Victor Carrion, told The Associated Press by telephone from the islands.

    The Seattle Times

Comments

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  • I'm concerned about the carbon footprint of petrels. Don't blame SUV's, the problem is RSL-WT-NBs.

    December 8, 2007

  • Always liked that phrase, too. Tube-nosed. Perhaps they should be required to have emissions inspections. :-)

    These are amazing birds, really. The word "petrel" derives from the Latin for Peter--St. Peter, that is. It refers to some petrels' ability to hover just above the waves, with their feet barely touching the surface, so they appear to be walking on water.

    December 8, 2007

  • I admire tube-nosed for its expressive qualities but it's not that flattering really. I mean, we humans use all these terms for other species. But if imagine if the Burundi Encyclopaedia described Finns as: a blonde, tube-nosed people living on a junkyard of snow. All hell would break loose, and petrels would still hover above it. But I like stormy petrels, I do.

    December 8, 2007

  • Yes, but do Finns really have that extra tunnel above their regular old noses? If so, it would be fitting to call them tube-nosed. Now, that junkyard part, I don't know about.

    December 8, 2007

  • Well, despite being in Finland for 2 weeks over Moneymas and New Year, and taking 300 photos, there are almost no faces in same. Finns, probably wisely, do not indulge in Ostentatious Proboscis Displays when it's minus 20. I have no idea.

    December 8, 2007

  • Shifting the discussion a little to the east, my primary connotation for "petrel" comes from Gorky's 1901 prose poem "The Song of the Stormy Petrel" (Pesnya o burevestnike – the Russ. "burevestnik" – petrel – means literally "storm-herald"). The opening sentences are:

    "Over the gray flatness of the sea the wind gathers storm-clouds. Between the clouds and the sea proudly soars the stormy petrel, as a streak of black lightning.

    Now the waves on wingtip touching, now as an arrow shooting to the clouds, he screams, and — the clouds hear joy in the bird's proud cry."

    December 8, 2007

  • Really liked that rolly. I got the bit about vestnik as in herald ... isn't there a newspaper by that name? But the image is quite gorgeously constructed.

    December 8, 2007

  • Thanks, bilby. The Russian word "vestnik" is commonly used in the sense of "bulletin" by learned societies. The Slavic root is -ved-, which has to do with knowing (in this case, making known); in Slovene, "to know" is "vedeti", for example. It's the same IE root that shows up in the Hindu Vedas, and in English in wit (I think that's true). As for bure-, that comes from the Russian word burya, "storm". In Slovene, this same word, as "burja" has come to mean, specifically, the strong wind that blows toward the Adriatic. The Italians in the area (esp. Trieste) have borrowed the Slovene word and call this wind "bora". And there you have it.

    December 8, 2007

  • Rolig, what a wonderful excerpt--beautiful description of storm petrels. Thanks!

    December 8, 2007

  • Excellent background rolig. I feel like having a petrel right now but Scotland is only giving me rain in my face :-( Trieste's quite a place, I can understand why Joyce tarried awhile. Thanks.

    December 8, 2007