Christmas Shearwater

Puffinus nativitatis
Christmas Shearwater1

Christmas shearwaters are medium-sized, chocolate brown bird with a short, rounded tail, black bill and dark, brown legs. Vocalization takes place throughout the night, often continuing 1-2 hours after sunrise. Birds can often be observed calling in paired flights. Their sounds are similar to the wedged-tailed shearwaters: moans and groans, but with a more nasal gurgling quality at the beginning of their call.

Birds are believed to be monogamous. They return at dusk and are active in courtship around dawn. They are active at night but quiet during the day and thus, are rarely seen. They arrive at breeding grounds in late February and begin to lay eggs by the end of April.

Christmas shearwaters breed in low numbers on small islands throughout the central Pacific. A simple nest is built with small twigs or leaves on the ground-surface under dense vegetation, such as native naupaka (Scaevola sericea). A single, white egg is laid and incubation period ranges from 50 to 54 days. Both parents share in the incubation, taking about a five day shift on the nest, while the mate is feeding at sea.

Chicks are fed stomach oil and partially digested fish as frequently as once every 24 hours for about the first two months. It takes about 100-115 days for chicks to grow and fledge. Adults will not desert their chicks before fledging. Shearwaters depart their breeding grounds by November.

Facts About Christmas Shearwater

Feeds primarily in association with large predatory fish such as skipjack tuna. The fish drive larval forms of fish to the surface. They locate larval food such as mackerel scad, flying squid, goat fish and squirrel fish most likely by using their sense of smell. They capture prey by plunging into water and chasing it.
Life Span
10-11 years
Length: 35-38 cm (14-15 in); wingspan: 71-81 cm (28-32 in)