Giant petrels are the chief scavenging seabirds in the Southern Ocean. Quantitatively analysed regurgitations from chicks of both Macronectes halli and M. giganteus at Bird Island, South Georgia throughout the chick rearing period consisted predominantly of adult Macaroni penguins Eudyptes chrysolophus. Significant quantities of burrowing petrels and krill were taken but the amount varied in different years. Only male M. halli fed regularly at fur seal carcases. Although 10 species were found in regurgitations, squid were unimportant in the diet. Fish are possibly more important during the winter.
Intersexual differences in diet were of greater significance than interspecific ones with males taking more carrion and females more crustaceans. Chicks were fed during both day and night and in both species males received significantly more food than females during the fledging period. M. giganteus chicks received more than M. halli at all ages.
Despite their extensive reliance on carrion both species take a variety of prey and this may be especially important during the winter when penguin and seal carrion is scarce.