Manx Shearwater (Puffinus puffinus)




Mid-sized black-and-white shearwater. Possible confusion with other members of the Manx-type group notably Townsend's Shearwater, Newell's Shearwater. Less "contrasty" species such as Black-vented Shearwater also need to be considered out of range. The identification is reviewed in detail by Howell et al., (1994) and Roberson (1996). The latter article is extremely well illustrated.

Key features are the white undertail coverts, relatively short tail, presence of 'ear-surround', lack of rump patches, and the more clear cut black-and-white underwing pattern.

Where and When

The majority of the population breeds in the British Isles with smaller numbers in the Westmann Islands (Iceland), Faroes, Brittany, Madeira, The Desertas, Azores, Canary Islands. Smaller numbers breed in eastern North America from Newfoundland to Massachusetts (from 1970's). The largest North American breeding colony is Middle Lawn Island, Newfoundland (some 350 birds in 1981).

Ringing (banding) studies have shown that British breeders typically winter in seas off Brazil (>150 recoveries), although some individuals may wander further afield. There is one recovery of a bird ringed as a chick on the island of Skomer off the Welsh coast that was found dead on a beach in South Australia some fourteen months later. Probably regular in small numbers in the eastern Pacific, with evidence of increasing numbers wintering in the Magellan Straits (Roberson, 1996). There are multiple records from New Zealand (Kinsky and Fowler, 1973; Tennyson, 1986), California (>9 accepted records somtimes involving multiple individuals) and Washington State. During 1994 for example, there were more than twelve reports for California and Washington (reviewed in Howell et al., 1994; Roberson, 1996).

Photographs on the web

Set of excellent photos from Monterey Bay, California by Ron Saldino. Shows off the white undertail coverts and white intrusion into the dark around the ear coverts. Posted on the Shearwater Journeys web site.


Howell, S.N.G., Spear, L.B., and Pyle, P. (1994) Identification of Manx-type Shearwaters in the eastern Pacific. Western Birds 25(4): 169-177.

Kinsky, F.C. and Fowler, J.A. (1973) A Manx Shearwater (Puffinus p. puffinus) in New Zealand. Notornis 20: 14-20.

Murphy, R.C. (1952) The Manx Shearwater, Puffinus puffinus, as a species of world-wide distribution. American Museum Novitates 1586.

Roberson, D. (1996) Identifying Manx Shearwaters in the Northeastern Pacific. Birding 28(1): 18-33.

Stone, C. J., A. Webb, & M. L. Tasker. (1995) The distribution of auks and Procellariiformes in north-west European waters in relation to depth of sea. Bird Study 42: 50-56

Stone, C. J., A. Webb, & M. L. Tasker. (1994) The distribution of Manx Shearwaters Puffinus puffinus in north-west European waters. Bird Study 41: 170-180.

Storey, A.E. and Lien, J. (1985) Development of the first North American colony of Manx Shearwater. Auk 102: 395-401.

Tennyson, A.J. (1986) Second record of Manx Shearwater from New Zealand. Notornis 33: 59-61.

Copyright © 2002 All rights reserved. Angus Wilson
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