Puffinus – Small shearwaters

These medium-sized shearwaters travel long distances covering up to 14,000 km ( 8,700 miles)

The genus Puffinus includes a variety of seabirds known as shearwaters, which are highly adapted to a life spent almost entirely at sea. Shearwaters are medium-sized birds that prefer cooler oceanic waters and are frequently spotted following boats, capitalizing on the turbulent water that might bring small fish and other potential food to the surface.

Shearwaters are well-known for their gregarious nature, often living and feeding in groups. This social behavior is advantageous, as many eyes make it easier to find food and watch for predators. Their tubular nostrils, a characteristic feature of the Procellariidae family, are specially adapted to excrete the excess salt they ingest from swallowing seawater, a necessity given their marine lifestyle.

The plumage of Puffinus shearwaters is typically subdued, with shades of grey, black, or brown dominating their upperparts and contrasting white underparts. This coloration provides excellent camouflage against the sea from above and against the sky from below, protecting them from predators like larger birds of prey.

Shearwaters are masters of the air, utilizing dynamic soaring to travel over the ocean with minimal energy expenditure. Their long, stiff wings are perfectly designed for this flying technique, allowing them to glide over waves and take advantage of wind currents. Occasional dips and swift maneuvers enable them to snatch prey from just below the water’s surface, using their long beaks to secure their catch.

The flying speed of shearwaters can indeed be impressive. The Manx shearwater (Puffinus puffinus), for example, is noted for its speed, capable of reaching velocities around 55 km/h (34.2 mph). This speed, combined with their stamina, allows shearwaters to cover vast distances; some species are known for their extraordinary migratory journeys spanning thousands of kilometers.