Manx Shearwater flock flying low over a smooth sea


Shearwaters are best known for their spectacular shearing flight, effortlessly flying mere centimetres along wave fronts. They also glide gracefully at high-speed far up in the sky. Shearwaters return to the same breeding colonies and partners every year. They nest in burrows on predator-free islands and cliffs, each pair producing a single egg.

Some make long distance migrations; the short-tailed shearwater for example covers 30,000km each year. Outside of the breeding season shearwaters are pelagic, feeding on fish and squid of the open ocean. They are often seen alongside fishing boats and whales. There are currently 20 species of shearwater, a number that is constantly changing.

Scientific name: Puffinus

Rank: Genus

Watch video clips from past programmes (1 clip)

In order to see this content you need to have an up-to-date version of Flash installed and Javascript turned on.


The following habitats are found across the Shearwaters distribution range. Find out more about these environments, what it takes to live there and what else inhabits them.

Additional data source: Animal Diversity Web

Elsewhere on the BBC