Balearic Shearwater

Puffinus mauretanicus

34-39cm

Appearance

Slightly bigger than the Manx Shearwater, but this bird is not as distinctly black and white. The Balearic Shearwater from the western Mediterranean has brown upperparts and dull underparts. The underwing has a dark edge and the middle of it is brownish-white, as is the belly. The bird may appear tubby when compared to the more slender Manx.

Habitat

Not uncommon to see these birds off the coast of south-west Ireland, west Wales and in the North Sea. Breeding grounds are on offshore islands in the western Mediterranean, nesting in rocky crevices on cliffs or on cave ledges; otherwise it lives at sea.

Character

When in the air, it beats its wings quickly and quite shallow, holding them stiffly. It tends to glide side-on to waves, especially in strong winds. It frequently gets food by plunge-diving and prefers to only come onshore at night.

Food

Diet consists of small fish such as anchovies, sardines, sprats and also squid and small shrimps.

Breeding

Females lay one egg between end of February and April; young birds have flying feathers by July.

Population

Begins to depart the Mediterranean in May; many birds go north towards the Bay of Biscay. Britain sees small numbers of individuals yearly, particularly off Cornish coasts and along the English south coast. There's been an increase of sightings in the North Sea in the last few years.

Observation Tips

Headlands and boats are the ideal vantage points for viewing these birds, especially in south-west Ireland between May and September.

Voice

Migrant birds are either silent, or are too far away to be heard.
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