The Bird Book/Fulmars, Shearwaters and Petrels

The Bird Book by Chester A. Reed
Fulmars, Shearwaters and Petrels: Family Procellariidae



Fulmars, Shearwaters and Petrels are Gull-like birds with two nostril tubes located side by side, in a single tube, on the top of the bill at it's base.

The Fulmars are mostly northern birds while the majority of the Shearwaters nest in the extreme south during our winter, and appear off our coasts during the summer. Their food consists of fish or offal which they get from the surface of the water; large flocks of them hover about fishermen, watching their chance to get any food which falls, or is thrown, overboard.


[85.] GIANT FULMAR. gigantea


Range. This Petrel is a native of the southern seas and is only casually met with off the Pacific coast.

It is the largest of the family, being about three feet in length, and is normally a uniform sooty color, although it has light phases of plumage. They nest in December on many of the islands south of Africa and South America, laying their single white egg on the bare rocks.

86. FULMAR. Fulmarus glacialis glacialis.

Range. North Atlantic coasts from New England northward, breeding from Hudson

Fulmar Bav and southern Greenland northward.

This bird which is 19 inches in length, in the light phase has a plumage very similar to that of the larger Gulls. They nest by thousands on rocky islands of the north, often in company with Murres and Gulls. Owing to the filthy habits of the Fulmars, these breeding grounds always have a nauseating odor, which is also imparted to, and retained by the egg shell. Their single white eggs are laid on the bare rocks, in crevices of the cliffs, often hundreds of feet above the water. Size 2.90 x 2. Data. St. Kilda, off Scotland. June 5, 1897. Single egg laid on rock on side of sea cliff. Collector, Angus Gillies.



86'b. PACIFIC FULMAR. Fulmarus glacialis glupischa.

This sub-species of the preceding, has a darker mantle than the common Fulmar; it is found on the northern Pacific coasts where it breeds on the high rocky cliffs, the same as it's eastern relative. They nest in large colonies, every crevice in the rocks having its tenant. Their flight is graceful like that of the Gulls, which they closely resemble. They lay but a single white egg, the average dimensions of which are slightly smaller than those of the common Fulmar. Data. Copper Is., Alaska. May 14, 1889. Egg laid in a crevice among the cliffs.

86.1. RODGER'S FULMAR. Fulmarus rodgers.

Range. North Pacific, breeding in large numbers on some of the islands in Bering Sea; south to California in winter. Very similar to the two preceding species except that the back is mixed with whitish, it is not believed to have a dark phase. Their breeding habits and eggs do not differ from the common Fulmar. The eggs are laid on the rocky cliffs during June.

Pacific Fulmar

Slender-billed Fulmar

87. SLENDER-BILLED FULMAR. Priocella glacialoides.

Range. Southern seas, appearing on the Pacific coast of the United States in the summer. This species has a paler mantle than the others of the family, and the primaries are black. The make-up and plumage of the whole bird is more like that of the Gulls than any of the others. They probably breed in the far south during our winter, although we have no definite data relative to their nesting habits.



88. CORY'S SHEARWATER. Puffinus borealis.

This species probably breeds in the far south. It has been found only off the coast of Massachusetts and Long Island. This is the largest of our Shearwaters, and can be distinguished from the next species by its wholly white underparts, its light mantle and yellowish bill. We have no data relative to its nesting habits.

89. GREATER SHEARWATER. Puffinus gravis.

Range. The whole of the Atlantic Ocean.

Thousands of them spend the latter part of the summer off the New England coast, where they are known to the fishermen as Haglets. Their upper parts are brownish gray, darker on the wings; bill and feet dark; under parts white, with the middle of the belly and the under tail covers dusky. Length about 20 inches. Little is known concerning their nesting quarters, although they are said to breed in Greenland. From the fact of their early appearance off the New England coast it is probable that the greater part of them nest in the far south.

[90.] MANX SHEARWATER. Puffinus puffinus.

This species inhabits the North Atlantic ocean chiefly on the European side, being abundant in the Mediterranean and in the British Isles. These birds deposit their single pure white eggs in

Cory" Shearwater

Greater Shearwater crevices among the cliffs, on the graound or in burrows dug by themselves. Size of egg 2.35 x 1.60. Data. Isle of Hay, North Scotland. June 1, 1893. Single egg laid at the end of a three foot burrow.

Egg of Audubon's Shearwater White





Range. Pacific Ocean, north on American side to California in summer.

This species, whose breeding habits are little known, is similar in size and color to the Greater Shearwater, differing chiefly in the yellowish bill and pinkish colored feet.



Range. Middle Atlantic, ranging north in late summer to Long Island.

This bird, having a length of but twelve inches, is the smallest of the Shearwaters found along our coasts. Large colonies of them breed on some of the small islands and keys of the West Indies and Bahamas, and not so commonly in the Bermudas. Their eggs, which are pure white, are deposited at the end of burrows dug by the birds. Size of egg 2. x 1.35. Their nesting season commences about the latter part of March and continues through April and May. After the young are able to fly, like other members of the family, the birds become ocean wanderers and stray north to southern New England. Data. Bahamas, April 13, 1891. Single egg laid at the end of a burrow about two feet in length. Collector, D. P. Ingraham.

[92.1.] ALLIED SHEARWATER. Puffinus assimilis.

This is an Australian and New Zealand species that has accidentally strayed to the shores of Nova Scotia.

Pink -fooled Shearwater Black -ven ted Shearwater

Town senc's Shear \vatei

93. BLACK-VENTED SHEARWATER. Puffin us opisthomelas.

Range. Middle Pacific coast of the Americas, north in late summer along the coast of California. This species breeds commonly on the islands off the coast of Lower California, especially on the Gulf side. Their single egg is white, size 2. x 1.30, and is located at the end of a burrow. Data. Natividad Is., Lower California, April 10, 1897. Single egg laid on the sand at the end of a burrow six feet in length. Collector, A. W. Anthony.

93.1. TOWNSEND'S SHEARWATER. Puffinus auricularis.

This bird ranges from Cape St. Lucas, south along the Pacific coast of Mexico, breeding on the Revillagigedo Islands off the Mexican coast.



94. SOOTY SHEARWATER. Puffins fuliginosus.

Range. A common species off the Atlantic coast in summer; breeds along our northern coasts, and it is also supposed that many of them nest in southern seas and reach our coasts early in the summer. These Shearwaters are entirely sooty gray, being somewhat lighter below. They are called "black haglets" by the fishermen, whose vessels they follow in the hope of procuring bits of refuse. They commonly nest in burrows in the ground, but are also said to build in fissures among the ledges. Their single white egg measures 2.55x1.75. Data. Island in Ungava Bay, northern Labrador, June 14, 1896. Egg laid in a fissure of a sea cliff. Collector, A. N. McFord.

Sooty Shearwater

Dark-bodied Shearwater Slender-billed Shearwater


Puffinus griseus.

This is a southern species which, after having nested on islands in the far south during our winter, comes north and appears off the Pacific coast of the United States during the summer. It is a similar bird to the Sooty Shearwater, but is considerably darker and the under coverts are whitish. Their nesting habits are the same as those of other members of the family. Size of egg, 2.40x1.65. Data. Stewart's Island, New Zealand, February 15, 1896. Single egg at the end of a long burrow.



Range. Northern Pacific Ocean in the summer, extending from Japan and Alaska southward. Supposed to breed in the southern hemisphere, as well as probably on some of the Aleutians in Alaska.



Range. North Pacific, breeding on the Revillagigedo Islands off the coast of Mexico, and probably on some of the small islands in the Gulf of California.



This is a Shearwater which inhabits the southern hemisphere, but which has accidentally wandered to the Pacific coast of the United States. It is dark above and whitish below, with black under tail coverts. It breeds in the far south.



Msirelata hasi

This is not a common species; it is an inhabitant of tropical seas and has only been casually found on our coasts or inland. It is a handsome species with white forehead, underparts and nape with a small isolated black cap on the crown; the rest of the upper parts are blackish. It is a native of the West Indies.

[99-] SCALED PETREL. Mstrelata scalaris.

This is another rare species which is an inhabitant of southern seas. A single specimen taken in New York State gives it a claim as a doubtful North American species. It is a handsome bird, the feathers of the grayish upperparts being edged with white, thus giving it the appearance of being barred. Its egg have only been known to science within the past few years. Data. Preservation Inlet, New Zealand, June 7, 1900. Single white egg. Size 2.40 x 1.75. Collector, P. Seymour. Parent bird taken with the egg.

100. FISHER'S PETREL. JEstralata fisheri.

This is a handsome bird known only from the type specimen taken off Kadiak Is., Alaska, by Mr. Fisher.

Black-capped Petrel Scaled Petrel

Fisher's Petrel

[101.] BULWER'S PETREL. Bulrveria bulweri.

An eastern Atlantic species which is only an accidental visitant to our shores. They breed on the Madeira Islands where the eggs are laid in crevices among the rocks or in burrows in the ground. Size 1.75 x 1.55, white.

[102.] PINTADO PETREL. Daption capensis.

This is the Cape Pigeon of the southern hemisphere. It has only accidentally occurred on our coast.



Least Petrel

Stormy Petrel

Forked-tailed Petrel

103. LEAST PETREL. Halocyptena microsoma.

Range. Pacific coast of America from Lower California to Panama. The Least Petrel is the smallest of this family, in length measuring only 5.75 inches. Their plumage is entirely dark sooty. They have been found breeding on San Benito Island, Lower California, and they probably do on others farther south. The single 'jgg that this bird lays is white with a wreath of fine black specks around one and sometimes both ends. Data. San Benito Is., Lower California, June 12, 1897. No nest, the egg being simply laid on the bare rock in a crevice. Size 1.00 x .75. Collector, A. W. Anthony.

1 0-1. STORM PETREL. Thalassidroma pelagica.

North Atlantic Ocean chiefly on the European side, wintering south to New Brunswick. Smallest of the white rumped, black petrels; 5.75 inches in length.

This species is the originally called "Mother Gary's Chicken" by the sailors. They nest abundantly on many of the islands off the coasts of Europe and the British Isles, laying their single White

egg either in burrows or crevices among the cliffs. Data. Coast of County Kerry, Ireland, June 1, 1895. Single egg laid at the end of burrow in a sea cliff. Size 1.05 x. 80; white with a wreath of very fine dots about the larger end. Collector, G. H. McDonald.

105. FORKED-TAILED PETREL. Oceanodroma furcata.

Range. North Pacific from California to Alaska, breeding in the Aleutians.

These birds have a plumage of bluish gray, the wings being darker and the underparts lightest. The nests are made in burrows or crevices in the banks. Data. Uniak Is., Alaska, June 10, 1900. No nest. Single egg laid at the end of a burrow. Several pairs nesting near. Egg white with a fine wreath of purplish black specks about the large end. Size 1.25 x .5.



105.2. KJEDING'S PETREL. Oceanodroma kcedingi.

This bird is similar to Leach Petrel, but is smaller and the tail is less deeply forked. Its range is from California to Panama breeding on the Revillagigedo Islands off Mexico.

106. LEACH'S PETREL. hoa.

Oceanodroma leucor

Range. North Atlantic and North Pacific Oceans, breeding from Maine and from the Farallones, northward to Greenland and the Aleutians.

These are the most common of the Petrels

found on our coast; they are eight inches in

length, of a sooty brown color, and have a white

rump. The forked tail will at once distinguish

them from any of the Atlantic Petrels. They

nest in burrows in the ground, laying a pure

white egg, sometimes with a very faint dusty

wreath about the larger end. Size 1.20 x .95.

These birds generally take turns in the task of

incubation, one remaining at sea during the day

and returning at night while his mate takes her

turn roving the briny deep in search of food.

The young are fed by

regurgitation upon an oily

fluid which has a very of 4.-, fensive odor. This odor

is always noticeable about an island inhabited by Petrels and is always retained by the eggs or skins


Kseding's Petrel

Leach's Petrel

Guadalupe Petrel

of these birds. They are very rarely seen flying in the vicinity of their nesting island during the day; the bird that is on the nest will remain until removed by hand. Data. Pumpkin Is., Maine, June 22, 1893. Single egg; nest of a few grasses at the end of a burrow dug in the bank. Collector, J. Lefavour.

106.1 GUADALUPE PETREL. Oceanodroma macrodactyla.

This species, which is very similar to the preceding, except for a longer and more deeply forked tail, breeds on Guadalupe

Is. Their eggs are white very minutely wreathed . . .

with reddish brown; they are, however, nearly al- ^K^SlfS^^Si^^^^ ways nest stained to an uneven brownish color. Data/ Guadalupe Is., Lower California, March 24 S 1897. Single egg laid on a few oak leaves and pine needles at the end of a three foot burrow. Size of egg 1.40 x 1.00. Collector, A. W. Anthony.


White, nest stained


Black Petrel

Ashy Petrel

107. BLACK PETREL. Oceanodroma melania.

Range. South Pacific, from southern California southward, breeding on the small islands on both coasts of Lower California. They are similar to the Leach's Petrel except that the rump is blackish. Data. San Benito Is., Lower California, July 23, 1896. White egg laid on bare ground at the end of three foot burrow. Size 1.40 x 1. Collector, A. W. Anthony.

108. ASHY PETREL. Oceanodroma Tiomochroa.

Range. California coast, breeding on the Farallones and Santa Barbara Islands.

This species, while not common, nests in all manner of localities on the Farallones, concealing their eggs under any rock or in any crevice that may attract their fancy. Their single white egg is only faintly if at all wreathed with fine dust-like specks of reddish brown. Size 1.15 x .86. Data. Farallone Is., California, June 12, 1895. Egg laid on sand in crevice at the base of a stone wall; well concealed. Collector, Chester Barlow.


Oceanodroma socorroensis.

Breeds on Socorro, San Benito and Coronado Islands, placing its eggs at the end of burrow. Data. San Benito Is., Lower California, July 12, 1897. Single egg at the end of a burrow 3 feet in length. Egg pure white very finely wreathed with pale reddish brown. Size 1.15 x .87. Collector, A. W. Anthony.



Breeds in the southern hemisphere in February and March and spends the summer off the Atlantic coast as far north as Newfoundland. This species can be distinguished from Leach Petrel by its square tail and from the Stormy Petrel by its large size and yellow webs to its feet. These birds are the greatest wanderers of the genus, being found at different seasons in nearly all quarters of the globe. Their single egg is white. Size 1.25 x. 90.


Fregetta grallaria.

A small species (length about 7.5 inches) inhabiting southern seas. Recorded once at Florida. General plumage blackish. Upper tail coverts, bases of tail feathers, under wing coverts, and abdomen, white.

[111.] WHITE-FACED PETREL. Pelagodroma


Range. Southern seas, accidentally north to the coast of Massachusetts. This beautiful species is of about the same size as the Leach's Petrel. It has bluish gray upper parts; the whole under parts, as well as the forehead and sides of head, are white.


Oceanites oceanicus.


Wilson's Petrel

White-billed Petrel

White-faced Petrel

These birds have the same characteristics as do others of the species, pattering over the water with their feet as they skim over the crests and troughs of the waves. They are not uncommon in the waters about New Zealand where they breed. Their single eggs are about the same as Leach's Petrel, are brilliant white and are, very strongly, for a Petrel egg, wreathed about the large end with dots of reddish brown. Size 1.32 x .90. Data. Chatham Is., New Zealand, January 7, 1901. Egg laid at end of a burrow. Collector, J. Lobb. This egg is in Mr. Thayer's collection.