Photo: Jorge Sierra/Vireo

Short-tailed Shearwater

Ardenna tenuirostris

This dark, narrow-winged seabird occurs in large flocks over cold waters. It is very similar to the Sooty Shearwater and, like that species, is a visitor from far to the south. Short-tailed Shearwaters nest only around Australia, but in the northern summer they may penetrate north past the Bering Strait. Generally found off Alaska in summer, farther south off west coast in winter.
Conservation status Total numbers estimated at more than 20 million, although declines have been noted recently in some areas.
Family Shearwaters and Petrels
Habitat Open ocean. Concentrations at sea are over continental shelf and around upwellings in cool waters. Breeds on islands close to shore and locally on Australian mainland, where grass and shrubs cover soil soft enough for excavating nesting burrows.
This dark, narrow-winged seabird occurs in large flocks over cold waters. It is very similar to the Sooty Shearwater and, like that species, is a visitor from far to the south. Short-tailed Shearwaters nest only around Australia, but in the northern summer they may penetrate north past the Bering Strait. Generally found off Alaska in summer, farther south off west coast in winter.
Photo Gallery
  • adult
  • adult
  • adult
Feeding Behavior

Forages mostly by diving from surface of water or by plunging from a few feet above surface, swimming underwater by rowing with wings; may dive as deep as 60 feet below surface. Sometimes forages in association with whales or dolphins.


Eggs

One. White. Incubation is by both sexes, 52-55 days. Young: Both parents feed young, visiting at night, feeding by regurgitation. Feeding visits become less frequent as chick matures. Adults then abandon young, and it goes to sea 82-108 days after hatching.


Young

Both parents feed young, visiting at night, feeding by regurgitation. Feeding visits become less frequent as chick matures. Adults then abandon young, and it goes to sea 82-108 days after hatching.

Diet

Mostly fish, crustaceans, squid. Diet varies with region, but may include many small fish; crustaceans, including amphipods and euphausiid shrimp; small octopus and squid. Also some marine worms, jellyfish, insects, other items.


Nesting

Breeds only around southern and eastern Australia. Nesting season extends from September to April. First breeds at age of 5-8 years. Nests in colonies on islands and locally on mainland, with most activity in colony at night. Nest: Sites are in burrows dug in soil under grass or scrub; both sexes help to excavate burrow, and same site may be used for several years. Nest chamber at end of burrow may be bare or lined with grasses.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Migration

Moves north through western Pacific in April and May, concentrating off southern Alaska in summer, with some moving north through Bering Strait to Arctic Ocean. Breeders move south again in August and September, crossing tropical waters rapidly. Nonbreeders may remain off Pacific Coast of North America all year; occurs off California mainly in our winter months.

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Migration

Moves north through western Pacific in April and May, concentrating off southern Alaska in summer, with some moving north through Bering Strait to Arctic Ocean. Breeders move south again in August and September, crossing tropical waters rapidly. Nonbreeders may remain off Pacific Coast of North America all year; occurs off California mainly in our winter months.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
Silent at sea.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
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