Historic evidence of the use of storm-petrels Hydrobates sp. as candles

Alexander L. Bond, Jógvan Hammer, Sjúrður Hammer

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Many recent accounts of storm-petrel biology and conservation, particularly in the North Atlantic Ocean, refer to chicks of Leach’s Storm-petrels Hydrobates leucorhous and European Storm-petrels H.pelagicus being used as candles, particularly in Ireland, Scotland, and the Faroe Islands. Here, we examine the historical, ethnographical, and museum evidence for this practice. Most accounts are second-hand, and only a handful of examples exist and can be verified either as photographs, first-person accounts, or museum specimens. We conclude that the practice was not likely to be widespread, and its perception was perpetuated by reproductions and exaggerations by visiting naturalists in the eighteenth to twentieth centuries.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages13
Early online date1 Feb 2023
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • seabird
  • ethnology
  • natural history


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