Manx Shearwater (Puffinus puffinus)

Manx Shearwater

[order] PROCELLARIIFORMES | [family] Procellariidae | [latin] Puffinus puffinus | [authority] Brunnich, 1764 | [UK] Manx Shearwater | [FR] Puffin des Anglais | [DE] Schwarzschnabel-Sturmtaucher | [ES] Pardela Pichoneta | [NL] Noordse Pijlstormvogel


Genus Species subspecies Region Range
Puffinus puffinus AO widespread


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

The Manx Shearwater is a migratory marine bird. Its underside is white and the upper parts are completely black. The bird can be distinguished from the Little Shearwater by its black face in the eye zone and because it is slightly larger. Its bill is thin, long, straight and black. In flight it is possible to see the dark undersides of the wing tips. The bird moves with great difficulty on land as it has very weak feet.
The Manx Shearwater flies quickly, with long glides with a few changes in direction. It has a very rapid and strong wing beat. In the nesting season these birds gather on the sea at the end of the afternoon before heading for land.

Listen to the sound of Manx Shearwater

[audio: Shearwater.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

recorded by Grant Sherman

wingspan min.: 71 cm wingspan max.: 83 cm
size min.: 30 cm size max.: 35 cm
incubation min.: 52 days incubation max.: 55 days
fledging min.: 95 days fledging max.: 100 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 1  
      eggs max.: 1  


Atlantic Ocean : widespread. The Manx Shearwater breeds in the north Atlantic, with major colonies on the Atlantic coasts of the United Kingdom and Ireland. Colonies are also present on Iceland, islets off Massachusetts (USA) and Newfoundland (Canada), as well as on the Azores, Portugal and the Canary Islands, Spain. It undegoes transequatorial migration, expanding the range in winter to include the Atlantic coast of South America below the equator and the south-west coast of South Africa.


Marine and aerial within sub-oceanic waters of eastern North Atlantic from subarctic fringe to subtropical fringe of north Canary Islands, and in winter into tropical seas of eastern South America. Breeds normally on inshore islands from sea-level to c. 700 m. Visits only in darkness, often with minimum time on ground surface for alighting or take-off, but sometimes, especially non-breeders, may spend hours on surface. Land habitat otherwise subterranean, in dark burrows or crevices, mainly on flat tops or slopes of islands or promontories with fairly deep soil and rough herbage, often shared with rabbits and Puffins. On wing, keeps usually within 10 m of water surface, flight style being wholly adapted to this zone of airspace, deriving lift from airflow over sea.


The bird excavates a deep nest in the rock, about 1 metre deep, and lays just a single egg in the sole annual laying. Incubation lasts about 50 days and the chick is fed by both parent birds for approximately 6 weeks before leaving the nest in July. The chick remains in the burrow for a further 70 days during which time feeding visits become progressively more frequent until, when the chicks are large, the parent bird may bring food each night. Towards the end of their time underground the chicks are deserted, most remaining on average a further eight days before leaving the island.

Feeding habits

Fish, mostly small; also cephalopods, small crustaceans, and surface floating offal. Feeds by day by pursuit-plunging, pursuit-diving, and by surface-seizing; in varying numbers from single birds to small flocks.

Video Manx Shearwater


copyright: youtube


This species has an extremely 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). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely 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.
Manx Shearwater status Least Concern


Almost total migrant to northern breeding areas, where rarely recorded November-January; majority perform long journeys, including regular post-breeding migration from Europe to South America by juveniles and adults.

Distribution map

Manx Shearwater distribution range map


Author(s): DAVID S. LEE
Abstract: Knowledge of the biology of Manx Shearwaters Puffi..[more]..
Source: Marine Ornithology 23: 107-119

download full text (pdf)

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