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Fluttering Shearwater: 17 Facts You Won’t Believe!

Fluttering shearwater facts talk about the diving habits of this bird.

Fluttering shearwaters, or the Puffinus gavia, are one of the numerous shearwaters found in oceans around the world. Endemic to the country of New Zealand, they were first collected taxonomically by J.R. Forster in the year 1773. Forster was part of the legendary Captain Cook's second voyage to Australasia. The description that Forster gave became the basis of defining the species subsequently, and it is sometimes called Forster's shearwater to pay homage to him.

The shearwater species actually gets its name based on how they touch or shear through the water with the tip of one of their wings. Apart from flying, birds of this particular species are known for diving below the water level for around 10 seconds to catch prey! They usually feed on small fish, krill, and crustaceans. Interestingly, recent studies have suggested that these seabirds and some other species can sleep while flying.

In search of some more interesting facts about this species? Scroll down and read to end your search here!

For similar content on other birds, take a look at the common murre and the pelican.

Fluttering Shearwater Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a fluttering shearwater?

The fluttering shearwater (Puffinus gavia) is a species of shearwater bird that is endemic to New Zealand. You can also find these marine birds of New Zealand in the Solomon Islands and in parts of Australia. Also known as Forster's shearwater, this seabird species can sometimes be confused with Hutton's shearwater during the process of identification.

What class of animal does a fluttering shearwater belong to?

Being a bird species, the fluttering shearwater (Puffinus gavia) is part of the Aves or birds class of the animal kingdom. This seabird is part of the family Procellariidae and the genus Puffinus. Procellariidae is a seabird family consisting of prions, petrels, and shearwaters. The shearwater family, on the other hand, is made up of three genera. They are Calonectris, Puffinus, and Ardenna. The sooty shearwater belongs to the Ardenna genus.

How many fluttering shearwaters are there in the world?

Due to their prevalence in the coastal waters and rocky shores surrounding New Zealand, the fluttering shearwater (Puffinus gavia) population range is thought to be somewhere around 100,000. However, researchers made that estimation almost 17 years ago, and currently, the species' population trend shows that they might be at risk of declining in the future. This decline has been attributed to human activities like climate change and the introduction of species that act as predators in their breeding colonies and burrows.

Where does a fluttering shearwater live?

These fluttering shearwaters inhabit the sea and the rocky shores surrounding New Zealand as their primary living areas. Endemic to the country, these New Zealand birds are spread over a few island areas of the country. Marlborough Sounds, which is near the South Island, has recorded a number of individuals from this species. Apart from Marlborough Sounds, offshore islands close to the North Island have breeding colonies of this species too. Some of these offshore islands are Moturoa Island, the Aldermen Islands, the Bream Islands near northern North Island, the Mercury Islands, North-West Chicken Island, and the Motuharakeke Islands.

Migrant populations of the fluttering shearwater (Puffinus gavia) can also be found in the Solomon Islands. In addition, south and south-west Australia, especially along the Tasman Sea, have observed flocks of this seabird.

What is a fluttering shearwater's habitat?

The fluttering shearwater's habitat is marine, consisting mainly of the sea and strait surrounding New Zealand. The natural marine habitats of the seabird depend on the temperature of the water, with this species preferring warm tropical waters that do not exceed the temperature of 75.2 F (24 C). The salinity of the water level also has to be around 35%. During the breeding period, the fluttering shearwater (Puffinus gavia) makes its colonies on island habitats. They usually make these colonies on natural slopes, rocky cliffs, and beaches. The natural selection of these sites shows that they are places that are generally free of mammals.

Who do fluttering shearwaters live with?

The fluttering shearwater (Puffinus gavia) is a social and gregarious species that is always found in flocks. They are rarely solitary, with higher flock numbers recorded at around 20,000 birds. They can also be seen flying and feeding with other birds like the silver gull, spotted shag, and the Australasian gannet.

How long does a fluttering shearwater live?

While we do not really know the total lifespan of the fluttering shearwater (Puffinus gavia) from New Zealand, shearwaters usually have longer longevity than many other seabird species. For example, there are reports that a shearwater bird lived up to the age of 55 years.

How do they reproduce?

Fluttering shearwaters or Forster's shearwaters have their breeding season between September and February. However, some studies claim that the breeding period dates from August to late January for this species. As mentioned before, fluttering shearwaters breed on rocky cliffs, beaches, and slopes in New Zealand. While information regarding the courtship displays during breeding between males and females is scarce, there is evidence that states that pairs generally mate for life. These shearwaters breed in nest sites located in burrows and return to the nest sites every year to clean them.

The clutch size of this dark-brown colored species is one egg. The time of the egg-laying is around October. The eggs hatch in November, and the chicks become capable of flight by early February. Interestingly, even though incubation has been observed to be carried out by both parents, the exact length of the incubation period has not been noted.

What is their conservation status?

As per the classification of the International Union For Conservation of Nature or the IUCN, the fluttering shearwater (Puffinus gavia) has been termed as a species of Least Concern. However, that doesn't mean that these birds don't face threats. Rising seawater levels, along with the introduction of certain predators like feral cats and brown rats in their natural habitats, have caused the numbers of this species to decline in recent years.

Fluttering Shearwater Fun Facts

What do fluttering shearwaters look like?

The typical fluttering shearwater appearance has a simple description. The plumage of this bird, belonging to the Procellariidae family, is dark-brownish on the back, head, and wings, while the underparts are white. The tail is dark brown with some white hues. Interestingly, even though the underparts are white, a dark-colored thigh patch and a patch on their inner wing can be seen when the bird is in flight. Additionally, the underside of the wing has white coloration.

The bill of the fluttering shearwater species is long, and the feet have bark webs being pinkish-brown in color. Sometimes, their appearance can lead them to be confused with the Hutton's shearwater.

Fluttering shearwaters are one of many shearwater species.

How cute are they?

While these birds aren't as colorful as Amazon parrots, they might appear cute to some.

How do they communicate?

The fluttering shearwater is known to be loud during breeding, while they can also vocalize in flight. Usual calls of the species range from 'ka-kek' to 'pa-ka-ha', along with low slurred notes that generally come at the end of calls.

How big is a fluttering shearwater?

In regards to length, the fluttering shearwater range is similar to Hutton's shearwater. The fluttering shearwater's size varies from 12-14.5 in (31-37 cm). In comparison, the kakapo is almost twice as big as this shearwater species.

How fast can a fluttering shearwater fly?

Unfortunately, we do not have information about the flying speed of the fluttering shearwater. However, shearwaters are known to reach speeds of around 34 mph (55 kph).

How much does a fluttering shearwater weigh?

The average weight of a fluttering shearwater is between 8-15 oz (225-430 g). Another native of New Zealand, the Kiwi bird, is a lot heavier!

What are the male and female names of the species?

Male and the female birds of the species are known by their common names. They are referred to as a fluttering shearwater male and a fluttering shearwater female.

What would you call a baby fluttering shearwater?

You call a baby fluttering shearwater a chick.

What do they eat?

Fluttering shearwaters mainly feed through surface hunting or diving for their prey underwater. The diet of this species includes small fish, crustaceans, and shrimps.

Are they dangerous?

No, these birds are not dangerous or harmful to humans.

Would they make a good pet?

Unfortunately, they are wild birds and have not been domesticated.

Kidadl Advisory: All pets should only be bought from a reputable source. It is recommended that as a potential pet owner you carry out your own research prior to deciding on your pet of choice. Being a pet owner is very rewarding but it also involves commitment, time and money. Ensure that your pet choice complies with the legislation in your state and/or country. You must never take animals from the wild or disturb their habitat. Please check that the pet you are considering buying is not an endangered species, or listed on the CITES list, and has not been taken from the wild for the pet trade.

Did you know...

The breeding age of fluttering shearwaters ranges between 4-10 years.

Fluttering shearwaters use their bills and feet to clean and dig new burrows.

How long can shearwater birds stay underwater?

Shearwaters can dive up to various depths depending on the species. For example, some can dive up to 230 ft (70 m) underwater. In the case of the fluttering shearwater, they can remain underwater for around 10 seconds at a depth of 10 ft (3 m).

How did the shearwater get its name?

Shearwaters get their name because of their habit of shearing the water surface with a wingtip while flying.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! For more relatable content, check out these Radjah shelduck facts and northern gannet facts for kids.

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable bird coloring pages.

The main image is by JJ Harrison.

The second image is by Francesco Veronesi.

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