Bird GuideShearwaters and PetrelsAudubon's Shearwater

At a Glance

This small seabird is widespread in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian oceans, mostly in tropical waters; in North America, it is regular over warm waters off the southeastern coast. At sea it is usually solitary or in small groups.
Gull-like Birds, Shearwaters and Petrels
Low Concern
Open Ocean
Florida, Mid Atlantic, New England, Southeast, Texas
Flap/Glide, Rapid Wingbeats

Range & Identification

Migration & Range Maps

Moves north in Gulf Stream in late summer and fall. Northernmost records (off New England) tend to coincide with periods of highest water temperature. Some also move into Gulf of Mexico. Dispersal distance is quite limited compared to long migrations of some shearwaters.


11-12" (28-30 cm). W 28 (71 cm). Dusky brown above, white below. Like Manx Shearwater but has distinctly longer tail, more dark under tail, somewhat less white under wing. White may come up higher on face. Flies with fast wingbeats and short glides.
About the size of a Crow, About the size of a Robin
Black, White
Wing Shape
Pointed, Short, Tapered
Tail Shape
Pointed, Rounded, Wedge-shaped

Songs and Calls

Twittering calls and mewing notes heard at night in breeding colonies.
Call Pattern
Call Type
Odd, Raucous, Scream


Open ocean. Almost exclusively over warm waters; follows warm current of Gulf Stream north. Very seldom comes near land in North America. Nests on islands, both along rocky coastal edges and in wooded areas farther inland.



One per season. White. Incubation is by both sexes, about 51 days.


Chick is brooded or attended by one parent for several days after hatching. Both parents feed young, visiting at night. Last feeding of young is about 70 days after hatching; 3-5 days later, young departs from nest. Leaving at night, young climbs to highest point nearby, makes its first flight out to sea.

Feeding Behavior

Forages by diving and swimming underwater, rowing with wings; may be quite agile underwater. Also feeds by seizing items at surface. Probably feeds by night as well as by day. Does not ordinarily follow ships like some seabirds.


Squid, fish. Diet not well known, apparently mostly small squid and fish. Has been reported to eat many sardines at times.


Breeds in colonies on islands. Active at colonies only at night. Adults may arrive at colony 3 months before time of egg-laying. Members of mated pair spend much time together at nest site, rubbing bills together, often calling loudly. Nest: Site is in narrow natural crevice in rock, in underground burrow, or on ground under dense vegetation, usually with little or no nest lining added.

Climate Vulnerability

Conservation Status

Populations in Caribbean vulnerable to disturbance as human population of that region continues to grow. Formerly a common breeder in Bermuda, last recorded in 1980s. Has probably declined on larger islands in the Bahamas and elsewhere.

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