The stormy petrel. So named, according to tradition, from the
Italian Petrello (little Peter), in allusion to St. Peter, who
walked on the sea. Our sailors call them “Mother Carey's chickens.” They are called stormy because in a gale they surround a ship to
catch small animals which rise to the surface of the rough sea; when
the gale ceases they are no longer seen.
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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