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Sooty Shearwater

Puffinus griseus
The Sooty shearwater is a pelagic bird, that is, a bird that lives in open oceans and normally only come ashore to breed.

The Sooty Shearwater grows to between 40 and 50 centimeters in length. Adult birds usually have a wingspan of just over a meter. Both male and female birds have a black bill and sooty brown plumage, which is darkest on the upper wings and tails. Both sexes have light gray under-wing linings.

The dark brown appearance of the Sooty Shearwater explains why in the eighteenth century they were called Black Shearwaters.

Sooty Shearwaters are migratory birds common in both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, where they range from the Antartic pack ice to North of the equator. They are commonly found at sea in flocks numbering over 20,000 birds feeding on anchovies, squid and small crustaceans. From November through to April they bred in large colonies in New Zealand, Tasmania, the Falkland Islands and on Islands off Cape Horn. The birds lay a single egg in burrows exposed to sea winds.

In New Zealand, the Sooty Shearwater is known as the Oi or Mutton Bird. It is still a significant part of the diet of many Maori, and around a quarter of a million chicks are harvested each year. It has similarly been a staple food of the Palawa peoples of Tasmania, who likewise continue to harvest the bird, notably on the islands of the Bass Straight.


Prepared by: Turnbull, P.
Created: 3 November 2001
Modified: 1 December 2001

Published by South Seas, 1 February 2004
Comments, questions, corrections and additions: Paul.Turnbull@jcu.edu.au
Prepared by: Paul Turnbull
Updated: 28 June 2004
To cite this page use: http://nla.gov.au/nla.cs-ss-biogs-P000112

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