Newells Shearwater (Puffinus newelli)

Newells Shearwater

[order] PROCELLARIIFORMES | [family] Procellariidae | [latin] Puffinus newelli | [authority] Henshaw, 1900 | [UK] Newells Shearwater | [FR] Puffin de Newell | [DE] Townsendsturmtaucher | [ES] Pardela de Townsend | [NL] Newell’s Pijlstormvogel


Monotypic species


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

Adult males and females are dark, sooty brown above, with white throat and underparts, and have a dark bill with a hooked tip. Flight is direct, fast and usually low over water.

wingspan min.: 76 cm wingspan max.: 89 cm
size min.: 31 cm size max.: 35 cm
incubation min.: 60 days incubation max.: 64 days
fledging min.: 88 days fledging max.: 100 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 1  
      eggs max.: 1  


Pacific Ocean : Hawaii, Austral Is. Puffinus newelli nests principally on the mountains of Kaua`i, but small colonies exist on Moloka`i and Hawai`i, and Pacific Oceanssibly also on O’ahu, Maui, Lana`i and Lehua Islet (near Ni`ihau) in the Hawaiian Islands (USA)


It breeds at 160-1,200 m, apparently exhibiting habitat segregation from the Wedge-tailed Shearwater P. pacificus which is confined to lower altitudes. It usually nests in burrows associated with the root structure of trees, including Ohia lehua Metrosideros polymorpha, and a dominant understory of densely matted uluhe fern Dicranopteris linearis in montane mesic forests on steep slopes, although a minority nest in tussock-grass.


They are colonial and nest on steep mountain slopes, with variable amounts of vegetation, where they lay a single egg in burrows, which are often placed at the base of a tree. Breeding is highly synchronous, and eggs are laid in early June, and most young fledge by November. Both parents incubate egg, and brood and feed nestling. Parents forage hundreds of kilometers offshore and return to colony at night to feed chick. No postfledging care is provided. Age at first breeding is likely between six and seven years

Feeding habits

Often forages in large, mixed species flocks associated with schools of large, predatory fishes which drive prey species to the surface. It feeds mainly by pursuit-plunging; individuals dive into water and swim using their partly folded wings for propulsion. Diet is not well known, but likely consists of fish and squid


This species appears to have declined very rapidly on its main breeding island, possibly associated with the impacts of Hurricane Iniki in 1992, and continues to decline, with two colonies known of in the early 1980s, and possibly a third, now abandoned. Combined with longer term declines owing to a number of other threats, it qualifies as Endangered.
On Kaua`i, hurricanes Iwa and Iniki devastated the forests in 1982 and 1992 and, since the latter, the species’s population has been declining. Given that a large proportion of the population breeds on Kaua`i, catastrophic events, like hurricanes, are a serious threat. Subsequent and ongoing habitat modification by alien invasive plant species, such as strawberry guava Psidium cattleianum, and feral pigs and goats, pose a significant threat.
Newells Shearwater status Endangered


Little known, thought to disperse to adjacent seas; recorded S to waters just N of Galapagos Is.

Distribution map

Newells Shearwater distribution range map

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