Manx Shearwater

Puffinus puffinus

31-36cm

Appearance

The sexes are similar; the wings are long, straight and slim and the bill is narrow. Its upperparts are blackish, underparts white, except for dark sections on the edge of the wings. A black hood sits below the eye. Juveniles are similar to adults.

Habitat

Lives on the open seas apart from when nesting; nests are on offshore islands (including off the west coast of Britain and Ireland) with soft land.

Character

This is the most common shearwater in the UK. When flying, it beat its wings quickly and stiffly, before doing a long glide as it banks and cuts in close to the water, showing off its contrasting blacks and whites. Several birds may fly in a line, air currents lifting them. They plunge-dive for food. It nests in colonies, sometimes hundreds and thousands of pairs close together. Hundreds of birds will swim in the water as dusk gets closer; they then go to land once it's dark.

Food

Eats mostly fish, especially herring, sardines and sprats. Diet also includes other sea creatures such as squid. Parents regurgitate fish into the mouths of the young at night time.

Breeding

The female lays one egg which the pair share the incubation of for about 50 days. Parents leave young at about 60 days old; the chick leaves the nest 8-9 days later and goes towards open ocean.

Population

This is a summer visitor that is present for a window between May and September. Approximately 300 000 pairs breed in the UK and 33 000 in Ireland, which means at times the UK has 80-90% of the European breeding population.

Observation Tips

The best places to spot these birds are off headlands on the west coasts of England and Wales, around most of Ireland, and west and north Scotland. For closer views, overnight stays on an island such as Bardsey Island or Skomer may be worthwhile as both places are known to have populations of nesting birds.

Voice

Quiet when at sea, but in breeding colonies it may make coughing or crowing sounds after dark.
Back to Bird Index