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Marine Animal Encyclopedia

Great Shearwater Puffinus gravis

The great shearwater is an ocean-living sea bird that is a wide-ranging migrant and is found across most of the Atlantic Ocean during the course of the year. It breeds in the far south, on some of the world’s remotest islands. One of these, Nightingale Island in the Tristan da Cunha group, is home to about four million birds. Great shearwaters have pointed wings with dark brown upper surfaces. Their undersides are much paler, making the birds look alternately black then white during their tilting flight. Sometimes vocal at sea, great shearwaters wail and scream noisily from their burrows when breeding. These calls are thought to help incoming birds to locate their mates after dark.

Great Shearwaterzoom image
  • Order Procellariiformes
  • Length 18–21 in (46–53 cm)
  • Weight 1–2 lb (800–900 kg)
  • Habitat Oceanic islands (breeding); open ocean
  • Distribution Atlantic Ocean, except off west coast of Africa south of Sierra Leone
Great Shearwater Habitat Mapzoom image