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New England Seabirds

 Wilson's Storm-petrel  Dave Jones


Shearwaters Index
Great Shearwater
Sooty Shearwater
Cory's Shearwater
Manx Shearwater
Audubon's Shearwater
Little Shearwater

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Sooty Shearwater

Puffinus griseus

Sooty Shearwater Jim Beseda

Sooty Shearwater by Jim Beseda. The white pattern under the wing is variable in shape but always present.

Where To See
You can see the Sooty Shearwater from April to September on Stellwagen Bank. Usually arrives before Greater Shearwater and leaves a bit earlier. It is also south of the Cape and north into Bay of Fundy and the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Prefers colder water. Not seen in the warm eddies south of
Cape Cod.

Southern hemisphere off the tip of South America at Staten, Wollaston, and Deceit Island near Cape Horn. Also off Australia and New Zeland. Most disperse in the Pacific, Indian, and Atlantic Ocean.

All Dark
Most animals that live in the sea follow the same pattern: dark on top, light underneath. This coloration is protective because when a predator swimming under the animal looks up, light under parts blend in with the light from above. From above it is just the opposite, dark color blends with the deep dark water and protects the prey. The Sooty Shearwater is one bird that does not follow this rule. Except for the white wing linings, the Sooty Shearwater is all dark on top and bottom.



Sits on the water in flocks. Attracted by chum, but not usually a ship follower. Dives from surface and swims underwater with wings.

Easy to identify on the east coast because you do not need to separate from Short-tailed and Wedge-tailed Shearwaters as is the case in the Pacific Ocean.

When sitting on the water it is an all dark shearwater. Photo by Scott Spangenberg.

Sooty Shearwater Scott Spangenberg

Sooty Shearwater Joe Sutherland 

The underwing of the Sooty shows white wing lining which are variable in size and shape but usually continuous.  This bird photographed by Joe Sutherland seems to be molting the wing lining.

Sooty Shearwater under wing Glen Tepke

Glen Tepke photograph of the under wing of a Sooty Shearwater.

Seabirds  |  Shearwaters  Index  |  Great  |  Sooty  |  Cory's  |   Manx   |  Audubon's   |  Little | Top of Page   

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Harrison, Peter (1983) Seabirds an identification guide Houghton Mifflin Company; Boston

Howell, Steve N.G. (2012) Petrels, Albatrosses & Storm-petrels of North America A Photographic Guide Princeton University Press; Princeton

Olney, Derrick and Scofield, Paul (2007) Albatrosses, Petrels & Shearwater of the World Princeton University Press Princeton