Conservation status Apparently increasing off east coast of North America; first found nesting in Massachusetts in 1973, Newfoundland in 1976.
Family Shearwaters and Petrels
Habitat Open ocean. Off North America, generally occurs over cooler waters (but it inhabits warm waters elsewhere, including waters off eastern South America). Often feeds closer to shore than other shearwaters. Nests on islands, mostly small islands near mainland.
Formerly a rare visitor to waters off northeastern North America, the Manx Shearwater has increased in recent decades, and has been found nesting on this side of the Atlantic. Many small black-and-white shearwaters in other oceans are closely related, and are sometimes classified as belonging to this same species.

Feeding Behavior

Forages by plunging into water from low flight, by making shallow dives from surface, or by seizing items at or just below surface while swimming. Swims underwater better than some other shearwaters.


One per season. White. Incubation is by both sexes, 47-55 days, rarely up to 63 days. Young: Both parents feed young. Parents abandon young after about 60 days, and it leaves nest 8-9 days later, going to sea alone.


Both parents feed young. Parents abandon young after about 60 days, and it leaves nest 8-9 days later, going to sea alone.


Mostly small fish. Feeds on a variety of common small fish, especially herrings, sprats, sardines, sand lance; also squid, crustaceans.


Breeding behavior known mostly from studies around Great Britain. Usually first breeds at age 5-6 years, and may mate for life. Nests in dense colonies on islands. Activity at colony entirely at night. Courtship not well known, but members of pair spend much time in nest several weeks before egg is laid. Nest: Site is in burrow, usually 3-6 feet long, excavated by both sexes; same burrow may be re-used for several years. Nest chamber is usually lined with small amount of grass, leaves.

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

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Present in numbers off northeastern North America from May to October. Movements of these birds not well known. Large numbers move north past Bermuda in spring, peaking in March. A few have been recorded off the southeastern United States in winter. Birds from European colonies winter mainly off east coast of South America.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon

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Songs and Calls

Cooing and clucking notes heard at night in breeding colonies.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
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