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Chionidae - sheathbills

Snowy Sheathbill Sheathbills live in the Antarctic near the shore. There are only two species in this family, the greater or snowy sheathbill and the black-billed sheathbill.

Sheathbills are entirely white, have short wings and a horny sheath that covers the upper part of their thick, conical bills. They are the only birds found in Antarctica that have non-webbed feet, which makes them not suited for life on the water like other bird species found in the Antarctic.

Sheathbills spend most of their time walking around on the ground looking for food. They usually only fly when they are startled or threatened or when they are migrating.

Sheathbills scavenge for food and eat carrion and penguin eggs. Their breeding season is at the same tome as the penguin breeding season. They nest near penguins and breeding pairs will often work together to distract nesing penguins so they can steal their eggs or chicks.

World Status Key
Least ConcernLeast Concern Near ThreatenedNear Threatened VulnerableVulnerable EndangeredEndangered Critically EndangeredCritically Endangered extinct in the wildExtinct in the Wild extinctExtinct
Status and range is taken from ICUN Redlist. If no status is listed, there is not enough data to establish status.

US Status Key
Threatened in US Threatened in US Threatened in New Hampshire Threatened in NH Endangered in US Endangered in US Endangered in NH Endangered in NH breeds in nh Breeds in NH Introduced Introduced
Status taken from US Fish and Wildlife and NH Fish and Game

New Hampshire Species


 North/Central American Species

None   None

Species Around the World

Africa Africa Antarctica Asia Asia Australia Australia/Oceania Europe Europe North America North America South America South America New Hampshire Species NH Species

Snowy Sheathbill - Chionis albus Least Concern South America
Black-faced Sheathbill - Chionis minor Least Concern


Additional Information

Key: profile Profile Photos Photos Video Video Audio Audio

Snowy Sheathbill - Chionis albus profile Photos Least Concern South America
The snowy sheathbill has a horny sheath that partly covers its nostrils.
Source: Arkive Intended Audience: General Reading Level: Middle School