Saturday, March 7, 2015

Pink-footed Shearwater

This fairly lousy photo is of an interesting bird—a Pink-footed Shearwater. I suppose great photography does not result from standing on a small, rocking boat in the Pacific Ocean, 60 miles off Westport, Washington. I have read that shearwaters get their name because their wings appear to clip the waves when they are flying low. In fact, as you can see from this photo link, occasionally their wings actually skim the ocean surface. Like albatross, about which I have previously blogged, shearwaters often get lift from air currents rising off ocean waves.

Pink-footed Shearwaters only breed off Chile on three small islands in the eastern Pacific Ocean. This small range makes the species vulnerable to natural and human catastrophes. After breeding, birds migrate northward along the Pacific coast to waters off British Columbia and Alaska, where numbers peak between August and October. The photo on this blog was taken on 13 August 2001 and Erika and I saw a Pink-footed Shearwater off the coast of northern Peru on 21 October 1973.

The total breeding population is estimated to be about 100,000 individuals ( This estimate is in stark contrast to other censuses of up to 400,000 off southern California (Carboneras and Kirwan 2014). Clearly the actual population size is unknown.

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