Flesh-Footed Shearwater, Puffinus carneipes

The plumage of this bird is black, with pale pinkish feet, and a black-tipped pale bill. In flight, the undersides of the wings may appear silver. Flesh-footed Shearwater is 40-47 cm in length, 510-750 g in weight, and the wingspan is 99-107 cm long. Breeding in colonies, these birds have two main breeding areas; one in the Southwest Pacific Ocean including Lord Howe Island and Northern New Zealand; the second being along the cost of Western Australia from Cape Leeuwin to the Recherche Archipelago. It occurs as a summer visitor to the North Pacific Ocean as far north as British Columbia. They’ve been sighted in the Central-North Pacific, above the main Hawaiian Islands as well.

During the non-breeding seasons, the birds inhabit the open oceans. Nesting in colonies, the shearwaters nest on islands off the coast of Australia and New Zealand. Mostly active during the night, they nest in underground burrows than can be over four feet long. The female lays a single egg in December, both parents incubate around 54-60 days, and once the egg hatches, both parents feed the chick for 89-109 days. The chick leaves the island and heads to sea in April or May.

From September to April, the Flesh-Footed Shearwater breeds in the Southern Hemisphere’s summer. From May to September, the shearwaters spend the non breeding season in the Northern Hemisphere. The Flesh-Footed and the Pink-Footed Shearwaters are closely related. Some even consider them the same species. This species is listed as Least Concern at the global level. There are no captive populations of the Flesh-footed Shearwater.

These birds are capable of surviving to more than 30 years of age. The Flesh-footed Shearwater feeds mostly above water and rarely on land. They feed on small fish, cephalopods mollusks (squid, cuttlefish, nautilus, and Argonauts), crustaceans (barnacles and shrimp), other soft-bodied invertebrates and offal. It obtains most of its food by plunging into the water midflight, partly submerging itself to get to their prey. The birds routinely attend fishing vessels to feed on baited hooks, discarded scraps and prey attracted to the surface of such vessels.

Image Caption: Flesh-footed Shearwater flying in New Zealand. Credit: Brian Gratwicke/Wikipedia (CC BY 2.0)