Fun Little Shearwater Facts For Kids

Shirin Biswas
Oct 20, 2022 By Shirin Biswas
Originally Published on Sep 01, 2021
Edited by Luca Demetriou
Here are some little shearwater facts that are sure to fascinate you!

The little shearwater (Puffinus assimilis) is a bird species that is found in the Southern Hemisphere, and is pelagic in sub-tropical waters. The range of the habitat of this bird species extends over North America, Norfolk island, New Zealand, Kermadec islands and islands off the south-western coast of Australia.

This colonial nesting species is characterized and named after the shearing movements of its wings, as it glides over the sea water in search of prey. The diet of the little shearwater mainly consists of fish, squid, molluscs and crustaceans, which are readily made available in the natural habitat.

The little shearwater breeds in the winter season, and is known of the loud calls that breeding colonies after dark. Interestingly, they are actually silent throughout the day as they scour over the sea!

For more relatable content, check out these common murre facts and glossy ibis facts for kids.  

Little Shearwater Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a little shearwater?

The little shearwater (genus Puffinus) is a bird that is found in the Southern Hemisphere.

What class of animal does a little shearwater belong to?

These birds are classified as birds in popular language, however, the scientific term is Aves.

How many little shearwaters are there in the world?

There are no studies or records that would be able to tell us the exact number of little shearwaters that there are in the world, however, it is clear through their conservation status that the population size is quite stable and that this species will be around for quite a while!

Where does a little shearwater live?

Little shearwater birds are usually found in the islands of the Southern Hemisphere. They inhabit the islands and coastal cliffs of such areas, where they can be close to sub-tropical waters. Such proximity to the water bodies is important since they only feed on marine creatures.

What is a little shearwater's habitat?

The little shearwater range map consists of places such as North America, Lord Howe Island, North Island (New Zealand), Norfolk island and Kermadec islands. The populations that inhabit these areas are in fact the four different subspecies of the little shearwater species.

Who do little shearwaters live with?

Little shearwaters are colonial birds. They live and breed in large flocks. The flocks roost in burrows made in the ground, usually surrounded by grass and other such vegetation.

How long does a little shearwater live?

While the average lifespan of this particular species of shearwaters is not known, we do know that the average lifespan of shearwaters is of more than 50 years!

How do they reproduce?

Little shearwaters are a winter-breeding, viviparous species. The breeding colonies make a large number of nests or burrows for the laying of eggs. The female little shearwater only lays one egg per year. Double brooding is not seen in this species.

Little shearwater eggs have a long incubation period of more than 50 days, and both the parents take up the responsibility together. Little is known about the courting rituals or if there is a change in the plumage during the breeding season.

However, one of the most interesting facts about the breeding in this species is that these birds abandon the breeding site or burrow during the day time in order to make sure that the eggs are safe of predation!

What is their conservation status?

The conservation status of the little shearwater is that of Least Concern, according to the IUCN. This means that the population of this bird species is not likely to see any dip, neither is their habitat range facing the threat of massive degradation.

Little Shearwater Fun Facts

What do little shearwaters look like?

Atlantic little shearwaters are magnificent birds that are easy to spot. Little shearwater feathers are either white, dark brown or black in color, and there is no streaking on the body.

The dark brown or jet black color of the upper body is continued to the top of the head. The underparts and throat region is clean white, and extremely beautiful. The undersides of the wings are pure white throughout the length, which makes them look spectacular when in flight!

The little shearwater male and the little shearwater female have the same characteristics and can hardly ever be told apart from appearance. They both have a short bill or beak that is pale grey or pale pink in color, which is the same color as the legs.

The little shearwater baby looks roughly the same, although the demarcation of the feathers is not as stark.

The length of the little shearwater's wings enables it to glide freely over the surface of water.*We've been unable to source an image of a little shearwater and have used an image of an Audubon's shearwater instead. If you are able to provide us with a royalty-free image of a little shearwater, we would be happy to credit you. Please contact us at

How cute are they?

There can hardly be any doubts that these regal-looking black, brown and white colored birds are adorable. The slender bill and flight feathers of these birds make a beautiful contrast with the white underparts, which compliments the overall small size.

How do they communicate?

The calls of little shearwater birds are only heard during the night as these birds roost in large colonies. These pelagic birds are usually silent as they fly over water bodies, but during the night, the breeding or roosting colonies create a cackling sound that can be very aggressive for human ears.

How big is a little shearwater?

The average length of the little shearwater bird is around 9.8-11.8 in (25-30 cm). These small birds are fairly small and a black-headed gull can be almost twice their size.

The wingspan of this species and its subspecies is 9.05-10.2 in (23-26 cm). Such wingspan enables the little shearwater to be able to fly over the cliffs of islands and diving into the water to catch prey.

How fast can a little shearwater fly?

While the average flight speed of this bird species is not known, we do know that the little shearwaters are named after their shearing wing movements. These birds flap their wings very less in comparison with other bird species, and glide over the surface of water, in search of prey.

How much does a little shearwater weigh?

The little shearwater bird can weigh approximately 0.5 lb (240 g). For a comparative understanding, these birds are about 10 times as heavy as an average chaffinch; while a beautiful American flamingo can be 10 times as heavy as our friendly little birds!

What are the male and female names of the species?

There are no distinct names for the male and female little shearwater birds, and hence, we have decided to resort to referring to them as the male little shearwater and the female little shearwater respectively.

What would you call a baby little shearwater?

The juvenile little shearwater is called by the same name as all babies in the class of Aves, chick!

What do they eat?

The little shearwater diet consists mainly of the small fish that these birds can readily acquire from their Atlantic habitats. These seabirds also feed on squid, shrimps and other small crustaceans. They maintain a steady flight over the surface of water as they look for marine creatures to feed on.

Are they dangerous?

No events or incidences have been recorded that would suggest that these birds are dangerous in any way. This colonial nesting species of seabirds is usually peaceful towards humans and other animal species, except for marine ones!

Since they thrive when in a group, it can be concluded that this species has an amiable nature.

Would they make a good pet?

It is unlikely that having a little shearwater would prove to be a good idea. This species and its subspecies are all colonial, and would not do well if isolated.

Moreover, the intensive fish-based diet will be extremely hard to keep up with for any pet parent. It would thus be best to let the little shearwaters enjoy their natural habitat.

Did you know...

The little shearwater nest is actually a burrow. A large group of little shearwaters make burrows in the same area, making a colony.

The little shearwater habitat makes them vulnerable to predators. To escape predators, little shearwater birds return to their breeding sites only during the night.

This species of seabirds breeds during the winter season, nesting in colonies in the areas that see the maximum numbers of their population distribution.

The little shearwater egg is incubated for around 56 days!

Do little shearwaters migrate?

Migration in the little shearwater species is recorded to take place during the autumn season.

How did the shearwater get its name?

The family of shearwaters (procellariidae) gets its name after the shearing movements of its wings. The shearwaters hardly flap their wings as they glide over the surface of water, and hence, the name!

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 reddish egret facts pages.

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

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Written by Shirin Biswas

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English Language and Literature

Shirin Biswas picture

Shirin BiswasBachelor of Arts specializing in English Language and Literature

With a degree in English from Amity University, Noida, Shirin has won awards for oratory, acting, and creative writing. She has a wealth of experience as an English teacher, editor, and writer, having previously worked at Quizzy and Big Books Publishing. Her expertise lies in editing study guides for children and creating engaging content.

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