Donate Take Action

Join us


Marine Animal Encyclopedia

Short-tailed Shearwater Puffinus tenuirostris

Awkward and ungainly on land, the short-tailed shearwater is a tireless flier, skirting around most of the north Pacific during its annual migration. Like other shearwaters, it travels just inches above the waves in fast-moving flocks, interrupting its flight whenever it spots food. However, it has a narrower bill than other shearwaters, and its overall color is a dark, smoky brown. It nests in vast island colonies, each pair producing a single chick. Fed on a rich diet of oily food, the chicks weigh more than their parents by the time they leave the nest. For several centuries, shearwater chicks have been harvested for their oil and meat. The practice continues today, although the numbers killed are now strictly controlled.


The short-tailed shearwater has a unique figure-eight migration route, 20,800 miles (33,500 km) long, that takes advantage of prevailing winds. After laying eggs in November and December, the birds head north in April and May, reaching the Bering Sea by August. They then move south along North America’s west coast, before returning to their breeding colonies.

Short-tailed Shearwaterzoom image
  • Order Procellariiformes
  • Length 16–17 in (41–43 cm)
  • Weight 1–1 lb (500–700 g)
  • Habitat Open ocean, offshore islands
  • Distribution North Pacific, southwestern Pacific around southern coast of Australia
Short-tailed Shearwater habitat mapzoom image