The pink-footed shearwater is a pale-bellied version of the locally-breeding flesh-footed shearwater. It has a parallel distribution in the eastern Pacific, breeding on islands off the coast of Chile and migrating to temperate waters off North America rather than off Japan. Occasionally they stray to the west as far as New Zealand and Australia. The behaviour of the two species is similar.
The pink-footed shearwater is a large brown-and-white shearwater. The upperparts are greyish-brown, darker on the head and neck, and the flight feathers and tail. Underneath it is white variably marked with smudgy grey especially on the throat, sides, lower belly and under the wings. The bill is pink with a black tip and the feet are pink.
Similar species: Buller’s shearwaters are slimmer with a much longer tail and an obviously patterned grey and black back, and are much whiter underneath. Much less likely in New Zealand are: Cory’s shearwater (1 record from New Zealand) is cleaner white underneath and has a larger yellow rather than pink bill; and pale morph wedge-tailed shearwater (3 records from New Zealand) is slimmer with a long, wedge-shaped tail and a dark bill.
Distribution and habitat
A summer breeder in the eastern Pacific on the Juan Fernandez Islands and Mocha Island off Chile, migrating to the North American coast from Mexico to British Columbia.
New Zealand records
The first 2-4 birds off the Canterbury Bight in June 1979 were initially misidentified as North Atlantic (Cory's) shearwaters. Eight subsequent sightings have been accepted; most were single birds off Kaikoura, and most between December and February: January 1994, December 1998, February 1999, December 2001, January 2003, February 2008, February 2018. The two sightings away from Kaikoura were east of Stewart Island in November 2018, and near the Poor Knights Islands in July 2021 (an exceptional winter record for this transequatorial migrant).
Threats and conservation
Although pink-footed shearwater are found in fairly large numbers (20,000 pairs), colonies are found on just three islands. These colonies suffer soil erosion and burrow collapse due to introduced rabbits, goats and cattle. On the various colonies there is predation by rats, cats, dogs and coatis, and a still substantial but illegal harvest of chicks on Isla Mocha. At sea they readily scavenge and may be incidentally killed on long lines and by entanglement in nets and other gear.
Behaviour and ecology
Pink-footed shearwaters cover large distances searching for food and have a slower wingbeat and soar more than most other shearwaters. They may feed alone or in mixed flocks with other species.
Pink-footed shearwaters feed mainly over the continental shelf but also deeper water. They mainly take small fish and squid with some crustaceans, which are seized from the surface or pursued underwater and they may follow boats to take fisheries waste.
Marchant, S.; Higgins, P.J. (eds) 1990. Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic birds. Vol.1, ratites to ducks. Oxford University Press, Melbourne.
Onley, D.; Scofield, P.2007. Albatrosses, petrels, and shearwaters of the world. Christopher Helm, London.
Tunnicliffe, G. A. 1982. First sightings of the North Atlantic (Cory's) shearwater Calonectris diomedea (Scopoli, 1769) in Australasian seas. Notornis 29: 85-91.
Tunnicliffe, G. A. 1984. Correction: North Atlantic shearwater to pink-footed shearwater. Notornis 31: 130.
Southey, I. 2013 [updated 2023]. Pink-footed shearwater. In Miskelly, C.M. (ed.) New Zealand Birds Online. www.nzbirdsonline.org.nz
- Breeding season
- Egg laying dates