Manx shearwater

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from Manx Shearwaters)
Jump to: navigation, search
Manx shearwater
Manx Shearwater.JPG
Puffinus puffinus
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Procellariiformes
Family: Procellariidae
Genus: Puffinus
Species: P. puffinus
Binomial name
Puffinus puffinus
(Brünnich, 1764)

Procellaria puffinus Brünnich, 1764

The Manx shearwater (Puffinus puffinus) is a medium-sized shearwater in the seabird family Procellariidae. The scientific name of this species records a name shift: Manx shearwaters were called Manks puffins in the 17th century. Puffin is an Anglo-Norman word (Middle English pophyn) for the cured carcasses of nestling shearwaters. The Atlantic puffin acquired the name much later, possibly because of its similar nesting habits.[2]


Flying in Iceland

This bird is 30–38 cm long, with a 76–89 cm wingspan. It has the typically "shearing" flight of the genus, dipping from side to side on stiff wings with few wingbeats, the wingtips almost touching the water. This bird looks like a flying cross, with its wing held at right angles to the body, and it changes from black to white as the black upperparts and white undersides are alternately exposed as it travels low over the sea.


At some time or another, every living one of the middle-sized species of Puffinus has been considered a subspecies of P. puffinus. The extant yelkouan shearwater and Balearic shearwater (Sangster et al. 2002), Hutton's shearwater,[citation needed] black-vented shearwater,[citation needed] Townsend's shearwater,[citation needed] the Hawaiian shearwater,[citation needed] and the fluttering shearwater[citation needed] are now considered good species. Of these, only the Hawaiian and possibly Townsend's shearwaters seem to be somewhat closely related to the Manx shearwater (Austin 1996); the former Puffinus puffinus "superspecies" has turned out to be a number of more or less distantly related lineages. However, including the extinct forms listed below, at least the Mediterranean taxa do apparently constitute a superspecies in their own right, and maybe the New Zealand ones also.

Also belonging to this complex seem to be several extinct species:

Undescribed remains found on Menorca may belong to an already-named or a new taxon; they are not from the Balearic shearwater (Alcover 2001) which is possibly closer to P. holeae than to any other known species, living or extinct.[citation needed] There also existed a Late Pliocene/Early Pleistocene species known from Ibiza, Puffinus nestori, which may have been the direct ancestor of the Mediterranean shearwater (Heidrich et al. 1998).

The Atlantic forms are parapatric whereas the Pacific forms are sympatric or were not too long ago (Holdaway et al. 2001) and are reproductively isolated by a different circannual rhythm.

Range and habitat[edit]

The prefix Manx, meaning from the Isle of Man, originated owing to the once large colony of Manx shearwaters found on the Calf of Man (a small island just south of the Isle of Man). The species became extinct as a breeding bird there owing to the accidental introduction of rats from a shipwreck in the late 18th century; however a recent control program has resulted in Manx shearwaters returning to breed in small numbers.

Manx shearwater


Manx shearwaters are long-lived birds. A Manx shearwater breeding on Copeland Island, Northern Ireland, was as of 2003/04 the oldest known living wild bird in the world: ringed as an adult (at least 5 years old) in July 1953, it was retrapped in July 2003, at least 55 years old.[citation needed]

This is a gregarious species, which can be seen in large numbers from boats or headlands, especially on migration in autumn. It is silent at sea, but at night the breeding colonies are alive with raucous cackling calls.

Food and feeding[edit]

The Manx shearwater feeds on small fish (particularly herring, sprat and sardines), crustaceans, cephalopods and surface offal. The bird forages individually or in small flocks, and it makes use of feeding marine mammals and schools of predatory fish, which push prey species up to the surface. It does not follow boats.


This species breeds in the North Atlantic, with major colonies on islands and coastal cliffs around Great Britain and Ireland. Manx shearwaters have nested along the Atlantic coast of northeastern North America since the 1970s and have expanded their breeding range southward into the Gulf of Maine, with a pair confirmed as nesting at Matinicus Rock.[3] They nest in burrows, laying one white egg which they visit only at night to avoid predation by large gulls. The islands are usually free of mammalian predators (but on the island of Rùm, about 4 percent of the chicks are preyed on by red deer that need extra calcium.[4]) They form lifelong monogamous pair-bonds.


Manx shearwaters migrate over 10,000 km to South America in winter, using waters off southern Brazil and Argentina,[5] so the 55-year-old bird mentioned above probably covered over a million km on migration alone (not counting day-to-day fishing trips). Their migration also appears to be quite complex, containing many stopovers and foraging zones throughout the Atlantic Ocean.[6] Ornithologist Chris Mead estimated that a bird ringed in 1957 (aged about 5 years) and still breeding on Bardsey Island off Wales in April 2002 had flown over 8 million km (5 million miles) during its 50-year life.[7]


In the 19th-century Manx novel The Manxman by Sir Hall Caine, a reference is made to the satanic folklore surrounding the Manx shearwater, apparently due to its unusual call and dark appearance.


  1. ^ BirdLife International (2012). "Puffinus puffinus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013. 
  2. ^ Lee & Haney (1996)
  3. ^ "Manx Shearwaters Decide National Wildlife Refuge is Perfect Place to Raise a Chick". U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 8 September 2009. Retrieved 25 January 2013. 
  4. ^ R. W. Furness, R. W. (1988). "Predation on ground-nesting seabirds by island populations of red deer Cervus elaphus and sheep Ovis". Journal of Zoology 216 (3): 565–573. doi:10.1111/j.1469-7998.1988.tb02451.x. 
  5. ^ T. G. Guilford, T; Meade, J; Willis, J; Phillips, RA; Boyle, D; Roberts, S; Collett, M; Freeman, R; Perrins, CM (2009). "Migration and stopover in a small pelagic seabird, the Manx shearwater 'Puffinus puffinus': insights from machine learning". Proceedings of the Royal Society B 276 (1660): 1215–1223. doi:10.1098/rspb.2008.1577. PMC 2660961. PMID 19141421. 
  6. ^ Freeman, R.; Dean, B.; Kirk, H.; Leonard, K.; Phillips, R. A.; Perrins, C. M.; Guilford, T. (2013). "Predictive ethoinformatics reveals the complex migratory behaviour of a pelagic seabird, the Manx Shearwater". Journal of the Royal Society Interface 10 (84): 20130279. doi:10.1098/rsif.2013.0279.  edit
  7. ^ Anon (18 April 2002). "Oldest bird clocks 5 million miles". Retrieved 31 March 2013. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Alcover, Josep Antoni (2001): Nous avenços en el coneixement dels ocells fòssils de les Balears. Anuari Ornitològic de les Balears 16: 3–13. [Article in Catalan, English abstract] PDF fulltext
  • Austin, Jeremy J. (1996): Molecular Phylogenetics of Puffinus Shearwaters: Preliminary Evidence from Mitochondrial Cytochrome b Gene Sequences. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 6(1): 77–88. doi:10.1006/mpev.1996.0060 (HTML abstract)
  • Bull, John L.; Farrand, John Jr.; Rayfield, Susan & National Audubon Society (1977): The Audubon Society field guide to North American birds, Eastern Region. Alfred A. Knopf, New York. ISBN 0-394-41405-5
  • Heidrich, Petra; Amengual, José F. & Wink, Michael (1998): Phylogenetic relationships in Mediterranean and North Atlantic shearwaters (Aves: Procellariidae) based on nucleotide sequences of mtDNA. Biochemical Systematics and Ecology 26(2): 145–170. doi:10.1016/S0305-1978(97)00085-9 PDF fulltext
  • Holdaway, Richard N; Worthy, Trevor H. & Tennyson, Alan J. D. (2001): A working list of breeding bird species of the New Zealand region at first human contact. New Zealand Journal of Zoology 28(2): 119–187. PDF fulltext
  • Lee, D.S. & Haney, J.C. (1996): Manx Shearwater (Puffinus puffinus), In: The Birds of North America, No. 257, (Poole, A. & Gill, F. eds). The Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, PA and The American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, DC
  • Sangster, George; Knox, Alan G.; Helbig, Andreas J. & Parkin, David T. (2002): Taxonomic recommendations for European birds. Ibis 144(1): 153–159. doi:10.1046/j.0019-1019.2001.00026.x PDF fulltext

External links[edit]