Great Shearwater

Great Shearwater

Scientific name: Puffinus gravis

Did you know: Great Shearwaters undertake a massive journey each year, migrating in a unique circular route across the Atlantic!

What Do Great Shearwaters Look Like? (how to identify them)

Great Shearwaters, known scientifically as Ardenna gravis, are sizable seabirds with a distinctive appearance. 

Measuring 43 to 51 cm in length and boasting a wingspan of 100 to 118 cm, they are easily recognised by their dark grey-brown upperparts and contrasting pale underparts. 

These birds feature a dark cap and a unique white “horseshoe” mark at the base of their tails, making them stand out among their peers.

Differences Between Male And Female Great Shearwaters

While males and females share similar plumage, females tend to be slightly shorter and have smaller wingspans. Juveniles look similar to adults but lack the distinctive white collar.

What Do Great Shearwaters Eat?

The diet of Great Shearwaters is primarily fish and squid, which they skillfully catch by plunge-diving. 

These birds are also known to occasionally feed on crustaceans and scavenge fish offal from fishing boats, where they are seen engaging in noisy gatherings.

Where Do Great Shearwaters Live? (inc. migration info)

Great Shearwaters are true ocean wanderers. They breed on remote islands in the South Atlantic like Nightingale Island and Tristan da Cunha. 

Post-breeding, they embark on a remarkable circular migration up the American eastern seaboard, across the Atlantic, and down Europe’s coast back to their breeding grounds.

Bird Calls & Songs (the unique voices of Great Shearwaters)

At sea, Great Shearwaters are vocal, often heard making a piercing “eeyah” sound, especially when gathered in groups. Their calls are a distinctive part of the ocean’s soundscape.

Fun Great Shearwater Facts (kid friendly)

  • Great Shearwaters travel thousands of miles annually across the Atlantic in a unique migration pattern.
  • They are known for their “shearing” flight, skimming over the ocean waves with grace.
  • During breeding, these birds nest in burrows and are nocturnal to avoid predators.
  • Great Shearwaters can dive up to 2 metres deep to catch their prey!
  • Surprisingly, they are among the few birds to migrate from the Southern Hemisphere to the Northern Hemisphere for winter.

Facts About The Great Shearwater

Diet: Fish and squid.
Bird Family: Petrels and shearwaters
Length: 43-51cm
Wingspan: 100-118cm
Weight: 715-950g
Scientific Name: Puffinus gravis

The Great Shearwater Can Be Seen In The UK During The Following Months

  • August
  • September
  • October

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