Christmas Shearwater (Puffinus nativitatis)

Christmas Shearwater

[order] PROCELLARIIFORMES | [family] Procellariidae | [latin] Puffinus nativitatis | [authority] Streets, 1877 | [UK] Christmas Shearwater | [FR] Puffin de la Nativite | [DE] Weihnachts-Sturmtaucher | [ES] Pardela de la Christmas | [NL] Kleine Wigstaartpijlstormvogel


Genus Species subspecies Region Range
Puffinus nativitatis PO w


Until recently the shearwaters were devided in two genera Calonectris and Puffinus, but based on dna-analysis Penhallurick and Wink (2004) have proposed a splitting of the shearwaters into three genera: Calonectris for the large shearwaters of the Northern Atlantic, the Mediterranean and the waters around Japan, Ardenna for a group of large Southern Hemisphere breeders and Puffinus for the smaller shearwaters such as the Manx’ group, Audubon’s and Little Shearwaters. This new taxonomy is now widely accepted, but not by all and is stil subject of discussion.

Physical charateristics

It is a slender-bodied shearwater, about 36 cm long, with a wingspan of around 75 cm, and weighs around 350 g. The Christmas Shearwater has dark plumage all over, generally blackish-grey with a rusty-brown tinge, slightly paler on the underside of the bird, and with some small edging of white under the chin and pale fringes to the upperwing coverts. It has brown-grey feet and a dark bill and eyes. Both sexes are alike, as are the young after fledging. Nestlings are covered in dark grey down feathers

Listen to the sound of Christmas Shearwater

[audio: Shearwater.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

recorded by Alvaro Jaramillo

wingspan min.: 71 cm wingspan max.: 81 cm
size min.: 35 cm size max.: 38 cm
incubation min.: 50 days incubation max.: 54 days
fledging min.: 100 days fledging max.: 115 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 1  
      eggs max.: 1  


Pacific Ocean : West. The Christmas Island Shearwater nests on remote islands in the central Pacific, from the Hawaiian Islands (USA) in the north, south to Phoenix Island (Republic of Kiribati), and east to the Marquesas Islands, French Pacific Oceanlynesia and Easter Island (to Chile). Outside the breeding season it ranges across the Pacific, having been recorded off the coasts of Mexico and northern Chile in the east, to the Bonin Islands (Japan) in the west


The Christmas Shearwater typically breeds on remote sandy islands in rock crevices or under dense vegetation. The Christmas Shearwater has also been known to nest in wooden debris, beneath buildings, or in abandoned burrows. The nests of Christmas Shearwater require shade to avoid
lethal high temperatures to eggs or chicks. Outside the breeding season it is entirely pelagic.


Birds are believed to be monogamous. Birds return at dusk and are active in courtship around dawn. They are active at night but quiet during the day and thus, are rarely seen. Like most seabirds, Christmas shearwaters breed in their natal colonies, although colonies are often small, have high site fidelity They arrive at breeding grounds in late February and begin to lay eggs by the end of April. A simple nest is built with small twigs or leaves on the ground-surface under dense vegetation, such as native naupaka (Scaevola sericea). A single, white egg is laid. Incubation period ranges from 50 to 54 days. Both parents share in the incubation, taking about a five day shift on the nest, while the mate is feeding at sea. Chicks are fed stomach oil and partially digested fish as frequently as once every 24 hours for about the first two months. It takes about 100-115 days for chicks to grow and fledge. Adults will not desert their chicks before fledging. Shearwaters depart their breeding grounds by November.

Feeding habits

Its diet comprises mostly of fish and squid with only minor proportions of crustaceans. Prey is caught mainly by pursuit-plunging and pursuit-diving, but also by surface-seizing. Feeding in association with other shearwaters and also noddies

Video Christmas Shearwater


copyright: Peter Fraser


This species has a very large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be stable, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is very large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
Christmas Shearwater status Least Concern


Presumably disperses over tropical and subtropical waters, though some populations are probably largely sedentary. After breeding, birds from Easter I may move E to coastal Peru.

Distribution map

Christmas Shearwater distribution range map

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