Vaginalis alba Gmelin, 1979, New Zealand. Monotypic.
OTHER COMMON NAMES
English: Greater sheathbill, snowy sheathbill, wattled sheathbill; French: Chionis blanc; German: WeiЯgesicht-Scheidenschnabel; Spanish: Picovaina de Malvinas.
13.4–16.1 in (34–41 cm); 1.2–1.7 lb (460–780 g); wingspan 29.5–31.5 in (75–80 cm). Similar to other sheathbills except that the bill sheath is greenish and caruncles are pink.
Breeder and year-round resident on Antarctic Peninsula and subantarctic islands of the Atlantic Ocean including South Shetland Islands, South Orkney Islands, and South Georgia Island. Occurrence not confirmed on South Sandwich Islands but likely. Migrants observed wintering in southern regions of South America but little information exists on their exact origin.
Rocky and sandy coastal plains and intertidal zones; sites with seabird colonies and seal haul-outs.
Pairs territorial during breeding season; occur in groups on wintering grounds; most birds migratory. FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET Omnivorous. Kleptoparasitize seabirds and eat eggs, chicks, and excrement. Also feed on algae and invertebrates of intertidal zone.
Monogamous with long-term pair bonds. One to three eggs laid from late November to December. Incubation period 28–32 days. Chicks are semi-precocial and nidiculous. Fledging occurs 50–60 days following hatching.
Not threatened. Population estimated at 10,000 pairs.
SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS
Interaction with humans limited to research stations where pale-faced sheathbills exploit discarded food and excrement.
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