Sooty Shearwater

Range Map
Puffinus griseus

Sooty Shearwaters breed on small islands in the south Pacific and south Atlantic Oceans. Locations include New Zealand, the Falkland Islands, Tierra del Fuego and also in the Auckland Islands and Phillip Island off Norfolk Island. They usually choose densely vegetated slopes on islands for nesting. But sometimes they choose steep headland slopes on the edges of continents to place their nesting burrows.

These are one of the most common seabirds in the world. Despite their world-wide range, taxonomists regard Sooty Shearwaters as monotypic (i.e. there are no subspecies).

Sooty Shearwaters feed on fish and squid. They can dive more than 100 feet chasing their prey. Sometimes they follow foraging whales to exploit fish trying to escape the grasp of the whales, only to fall victim to the birds. Fishing boats often find themselves in the company of these shearwaters, who take advantage of bait and other scraps discarded by the fishermen.

I first met this species during a summer pelagic bird expedition off the coast of La Jolla in 2012. Later, in 2017, I met them again off the coast of Baja California (Mexico) while steaming south on a science expedition to the Revillagigedo Islands.

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