At a glance
Modest sized black and white temperate shearwater
Probably the most studied species of shearwater
Northernmost breeding species of any of the shearwaters
Obligate transequatorial migrant
Known to have bread on Bermuda, but now extirpated from the region as a breeding species, occurs in region as a spring migrant
Modest sized shearwater (30-38 cm [12-15 inches] in length), black on dorsal surface, white on ventral surface. Similar, but larger than Little shearwater and Audubon’s shearwater. Several additional taxa breed in Mediterranean Sea but they are seldom, if ever, encountered in Western North Atlantic.
Filoplumes present on adults in winter and spring. Majority of
adults first breed in 5th to 6th year. Maximum longevity for banded
birds 32-36 years.
Fresh juvenile plumage
blackish dorsally, extending below the eye on sides of head, cheeks and
sides of neck mottled black and white, but overall similar to adult.
This is the most northern
breeding species of shearwater. Breeds primarily at high latitudes in
the Old World, but as of 1975 this species was discovered nesting in
Martha’s Vineyard and a small colony was discovered in Newfoundland.
Banded specimens collected off North America indicate that most Western
North Atlantic records are of birds from breeding colonies in the
British Isles. In the focus region of this website reported to have
bred three times in Bermuda prior to 1905; nesting period of March to
May (Bourne 1957, but see Bannerman 1959).
This shearwater is for the most part an obligate transequatorial migrant and is pelagic. After the breeding season, birds migrate south and winter off the west coast of South Africa. They migrate in a clockwise fashion in the Atlantic and may return to their breeding grounds (notably the British Isles, but other eastern Atlantic sites as well), flying northward over the western North Atlantic.
Manx shearwaters occur at sea commonly, though seasonally from Maryland northward. About 5,000 Manx Shearwaters forage over northern shelf waters (New England, Georges Bank, and the Gulf of Maine) in the summer. Off the southeast Atlantic coast they are regular migrants and some individuals over-winter. This is a common migrant in waters around Bermuda. It is most common during the spring migration period (March through May) in the Western North Atlantic. The species is rare in upper Gulf of Mexico (off Alabama and Texas) and in the Greater Antilles (Lee 1995). Status off Northern South America unknown but probably never abundant there. Typically found over deep waters of Outer Continental Shelf.
Common, stable breeding populations in Eastern North Atlantic, small and newly established (mid 1970s) and expanding breeding populations in Western North Atlantic. Apparently nested in Bermuda in small numbers but that population has been extinct since 1905.
None for the greater West Indies region. It would be interesting to reintroduce this species to Bermuda. Bermuda is also a site where Audubon’s Shearwaters nested historically, but they too have long been extirpated.
D. A. 1959. Manx Shearwater. Pp. 86-100. In Birds of the British Isles.
Vol. 8 (D. A. Bannerman, ed.). Oliver and Boyd, London.
Bourne, W. R. P. 1957. The breeding birds of Bermuda. Ibis 99: 94-105.
Brooke, M. 1990. The Manx Shearwater. T. and A. D. Poyser, London.
Lee, D. S. 1995. The pelagic ecology of Manx Shearwaters, Puffinus puffinus, off the Southeastern United States of America. Marine Ornithology 23: 107-119.
Lee, D. S. and J. C. Haney. 1996. Manx shearwater (Puffinus puffinus). In The Birds of North America, No. 257 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, PA, and The American Ornithologists’ Union, Washington, D.C.
Powers, K. D. 1983. Pelagic distribution of marine birds off the Northeastern United States. NOAA Technical Memorandum NMFS-F/NEC-27.
Tucker, G. M. and M. F. Heath. 1994. Birds in Europe, their conservation status. Birdlife Conservation Series No. 3. Birdlife International, Cambridge.
May 24, 2009