Latin name: Puffinus assimilis

Population: The Little Shearwater has a large global population estimated to be more than 900,000 individuals.

Cites classified: Least Concern (IUCN, 2008)

Where found: The Little Shearwater are nearly circumpolar in subtropical and sub-Antarctic waters, but also occurs in the Azores and Cape Verde Islands and the surrounding oceans.

Wingspan: 58-67 cm

Length: 25-30 cm

Weight: 220-260 g

Mating/Breeding: The Little Shearwater breeds in colonies on islands and coastal cliffs, nesting in burrows which are only visited at night to avoid predation by large gulls. The Little Shearwater start breeding in late June/September. Because they breed in widely separated places, the breeding season is highly variable. It lays one egg, incubated for 52 to 58 days. The Little Shearwater chicks fledge after 70 to 75 days.

Eggs: White.

Hunting Habits: The Little Shearwater catches its food by surface-diving, pursuit-diving and pursuit-plunging.

Feed on: Cephalopods, small fish and krill.

Threats: The Little Shearwater’s main threats are the human harvesting of eggs and predation by introduced species.

Colour/Looks: The Little Shearwater is very small, dark above and white below. The entire underside of its wings and body is white, and the white of the throat extends to the base of the bill and around the back of the eye.

Interesting Trivia:

  • The Little Shearwaters have the typically “shearing” flight of the genus, dipping from side to side on stiff wings with few wingbeats, the wingtips almost touching the water, but in light winds has a more flapping flight than its larger relatives. This bird looks like a flying cross, with its wings held at right angles to the body, and it changes from black to white as the black upperparts and white undersides are alternately exposed as it travels low over the sea.
  • The Little Shearwater are silent at sea, but at night the breeding colonies are alive with raucous cackling calls.
  • Despite the scientific name, the Little Shearwater are completely unrelated to the puffins, which are auks, the only resemblance being that they are both burrow-nesting seabirds.

More info:

  • Hadoram Shirihai, A complete guide to Antarctic wildlife (2002)
  • David McGonigal & Lynn Woodworth, Antarctica and the Arctic. The complete encyclopedia (2001)