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Sooty Shearwater

ID Info
  • Sooty Shearwater
  • Sooty Shearwater
  • Sooty Shearwater
Silhouette SeabirdsSeabirds
Sooty ShearwaterArdenna grisea
  • ORDER: Procellariiformes
  • FAMILY: Procellariidae

Basic Description

One of the most widespread and numerous of all pelagic seabirds, the Sooty Shearwater is an unassuming, dark brown bird with silvery flashes in the underwing. With stiff wingbeats they fly low over the ocean ("shearing" the water), using wind power to glide long distances. They often pursue prey deep underwater, flapping their wings for power. Sooty Shearwaters nest in the Southern Hemisphere and migrate in vast numbers to the Northern Hemisphere, tracing a figure-8 journey that covers about 40,000 miles in a single year.

More ID Info
image of range map for Sooty Shearwater
Range map provided by Birds of the World
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Find This Bird

Watching the ocean from a headland or taking a pelagic birding trip are good ways to see Sooty Shearwaters. Populations are larger in the Pacific than the Atlantic, and huge flocks can sometimes be seen from shore along the California coast in fall. In the Atlantic, watch for them in spring and early summer. From a distance these brown birds can look superficially like immature gulls, so watch for their straight, stiff wings and fast, long glides low over the water.

Other Names

  • Pardela Sombría (Spanish)
  • Puffin fuligineux (French)
  • Cool Facts