Learn about Sooty Shearwaters
A flock of Puffinus griseus, common names Tïtï and Sooty Shearwater, in Monterey Bay. These birds follow summer by migrating to the north eastern Pacific after the breeding season in New Zealand. Adults have been recovered in Monterey Bay that were originally banded on New Zealand islands. (Photo: Josh Adams © 2004)
The "Endless Summer" Birds
Sooty Shearwaters are the "endless summer" birds, migrating between southern hemisphere nesting areas and northern hemisphere feeding grounds. Their trans-oceanic migration is very efficient because they use dynamic soaring to travel without using much energy. They arrive in California in spring (March - April) , after leaving their breeding colonies in New Zealand, Australia, and South America. During summer (May - July), shearwaters flock in the thousands in central California. Flocks can be easily seen from the shore at New Brighton and Seacliff State Beaches (Santa Cruz County). By December, most shearwaters leave California on their homebound migration to the south.
They nest in very dense colonies, underground! They dig burrows in which they lay one egg and raise the chick. Both male and female parents share in incubation, and feeding the chick. Pairs tend to be monogamous, live up to 34 years!
The Maori, native New Zealanders, call these birds "Tïtï" and harvest the chicks for food. The Tïtï harvest is very important culturally, economically and socially for the Maori. They have a program called "Kia mau Te Titi mo Ake Tonu Atu" or " Keep the Shearwaters Forever" designed to use science to sustainably manage the harvest so that shearwaters will always be plentiful.
At the breeding colonies, shearwaters are an important
ecological "keystone species", because they replenish soil nutrients.
They are also important top predators in the marine environment, feeding
upon fish and squid.
Sooty Shearwater adult in a nesting burrow
on Isla Guafo, Chile
(© Cheryl Baduini)
1. Further information is available at http://www.otago.ac.nz/zoology/titi/sooty.html
2. New Zealand Bird Gallery: Titi, the Muttonbird or Sooty Shearwater at http://nzbirds.com/Titi.html
3. See "Monterey Birds" by
Don Roberson (2nd Edition, Monterey Peninsula Audubon Society, 2002).
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