Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Great Shearwater

Shearwaters fly with stiff and straight wings, dipping from side to side with few wingbeats, and the wingtips almost touching the water ("shearing" the tops of the waves). There are more than 30 species. 

The great shearwater is one of the larger shearwaters. It breeds in the Southern Hemisphere in the Tristan da Cunha group of islands in the Southern Atlantic, between South America and Africa, and migrates to the Northern Hemisphere.

It has dark upperparts and white underparts except for a brown belly patch and dark shoulder markings. It has a black cap, a black bill and a white "horseshoe" on the base of the tail. 
This shows much of the dark upperparts. 

The white patch at the base of the tail is visible here. 
This is my best photo of the white underparts. 
They are common off the Atlantic Coast of Eastern North America, but rarely go close to shore. 
They feed on fish and squid by plunging into the water from the air or diving from the surface and swimming underwater. They are attracted by chumming and follow in the wake of boats. They are often seen where whales are actively feeding and behind fishing boats that are cleaning fish. We saw them while we were on a whale watching boat in the Bay of Fundy off Saint Andrews, New Brunswick, Canada. 

They need a running start to get into the air, running along the surface of the ocean. 
This great shearwater gets ready for flight by raising its wings. 
Then it starts to run and flap its wings.

It can take them quite a while to get airborne. 

1 comment:

  1. Such a great name for a bird. I love that series of "taking flight" at the end.