Open oceans and seabirds. Wings are long and narrow; feet are webbed, and the hind toe is undeveloped or non-existent. Plumage is predominantly black, white and grey.
The longer-winged species fly using a switchback technique to minimise active flapping. All eat fish, or similar marine prey.
Most are unable to walk well on land, and many species visit their remote breeding islands only at night. The exceptions are the huge albatrosses, several of the gadfly petrels and shearwaters and the fulmar-petrels.