You must have heard of St. Peter, the saint, who is said to have walked on water. Well, there is a bird which is named after the saint, because it looks as if it is walking on water.
It is called the stormy petrel. It is not known whether the petrel actually walks on water. But, it somehow manages to stay above water. This gives the impression that it is walking on water.
But, if a storm arises, the petrel cannot “walk on water”. So, it is forced to remain in the air day and night, till the storm subsides!
The petrel has webbed feet, which help aid its “walking” action. In fact, the petrel is the smallest of all web-footed birds. It is about the size of a swallow.
The petrel lives in oceans and comes on to the land only during the breeding season. There are about 80 kinds of petrels.
The petrel that appears off the eastern and southern coasts of the United States during the summer is called the Wilson’s petrel. It is sooty black in colour and has a white patch on its rump. It is about 18 cm long and has a short bill and long stilt-like legs. It greets the people with a friendly chatter, but it is not a song bird.
Another stormy petrel that is commonly seen in the Arctic Ocean and the Bering Sea in the northern hemisphere is called the Leach’s petrel. It is brownish black in colour and builds its nest in holes or burrows in the ground, or in hidden spots among rocks.
When the Leach petrel is breeding, it manages to remain completely hidden. In fact, hundreds of birds may be gathered near one spot without being seen!
The largest variety is that of the giant petrel, which is about 88 cm long. Another one, called the diving petrel is between 18 to 25 cm long.
All petrels belong to the Tubinare family, because their nostrils are shaped like tubes.