Sooty Shearwater

Sooty Shearwater

Scientific name: Puffinus griseus

Did you know: The Sooty Shearwater, a remarkable seabird, embarks on one of the longest migrations in the animal kingdom, travelling an incredible 40,000 miles annually!

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

Sooty Shearwaters, known scientifically as Ardenna grisea, are distinguished by their dark, chocolate-brown plumage. These medium-large seabirds measure 40-51 cm in length with a wingspan stretching 94-110 cm. 

Their flight is characterised by a unique “shearing” pattern, gliding effortlessly over water surfaces with stiff, straight wings. In certain lights, a silvery strip can be seen along the centre of their underwing, adding to their distinct appearance.

Differences Between Male and Female Sooty Shearwaters

Typically, male and female Sooty Shearwaters are similar in appearance, making it challenging to distinguish between them based solely on plumage. Both sexes share the same dark colouration and physical features. 

However, subtle differences in size or behaviour during mating and nesting periods might offer clues for differentiation.

What Do Sooty Shearwaters Eat?

The diet of Sooty Shearwaters is primarily composed of fish and squid. These birds are adept divers, capable of plunging up to 68 metres underwater in pursuit of their prey. They are also known to take advantage of surface foods, often following marine mammals to feed on fish disturbed by their movements.

Sooty Shearwaters are also observed scavenging scraps from fishing boats.

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

Sooty Shearwaters are truly global travellers, nesting on islands in the south Pacific and south Atlantic, such as around New Zealand, the Falkland Islands, and Tierra del Fuego. Their migration is a spectacular display of endurance, following a circular route covering vast distances across the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.

During migration, they travel individually, crossing various regions from the subarctic waters to their breeding colonies. In the UK, they are most commonly spotted moving south in late August and September.

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

While on breeding grounds, Sooty Shearwaters are known for their loud, distinctive cooing and croaking calls. These vocalisations play a crucial role in social interactions and mating rituals.

Fun Sooty Shearwater Facts (kid friendly)

  • Sooty Shearwaters can dive more than 65 metres deep to catch their prey.
  • They are part of the ‘tubenoses’ family, identifiable by the prominent nostrils on their slender, blackish bills.
  • In flight, they exhibit impressive gliding abilities, harnessing wind power to travel vast distances.
  • These birds were the unexpected inspiration for Alfred Hitchcock’s famous thriller, “The Birds.”
  • Despite their extensive travel, they return each year to the same nesting sites.
  • Sooty Shearwaters play a significant role in various indigenous cultures, particularly in New Zealand where they are known as ‘muttonbirds’.
  • They are known for their large, densely populated colonies during breeding season.

Facts About The Sooty Shearwater

Diet: Fish, squid, crustaceans and offal from fishing boats.
Bird Family: Petrels and shearwaters
Length: 40-51 cm
Wingspan: 94-109 cm
Weight: 650-950g
Scientific Name: Puffinus griseus

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

  • July
  • August
  • September
  • October

Sooty Shearwater Images

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Male
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Female
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Hatchling
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Nestling
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Chick
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Fledgling
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Juvenile