Short-tailed Shearwater

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September to May
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Basic Information
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What does it look like?

The Short-tailed Shearwater is completely dark brown in plumage, although the underwing occasionally has traces of white in the centre. The tail is rounded and, when in flight, the dark grey feet trail slightly behind.

Similar species: 

This species may be confused with the slightly larger Sooty Shearwater, Puffinus griseus, which measures up to 46 cm, with a slightly longer bill and more pronounced white under the wings, or with the similar sized Wedge-tailed Shearwater, P. pacificus, which has a noticeably longer tail.

Where does it live?

In summer months, the Short-tailed Shearwater is the most common shearwater along the south and south-east coasts of Australia. Enormous flocks of birds head south to breeding grounds off these coasts as they return from wintering grounds in the North Pacific. Some counts have recorded numbers as great as 60 000 individuals passing every hour, with over 18 million birds making the trek. At this time a number of birds are washed up on beaches and die as a result of exhaustion, sickness and bad weather. Most are birds hatched during the previous breeding season. Considering the incredible numbers of birds that make this annual migration, the number of fatalities is fairly small.


The Short-tailed Shearwater is found in coastal waters.

Seasonal movements: 

Summer migration southwards from Northern Pacific breeding grounds.

What does it do?

The Short-tailed Shearwater feeds on krill, small fish and other small marine creatures. Food is caught mostly on the surface of the water but sometimes birds are seen diving for food.


The Short-tailed Shearwater establishes massive breeding colonies off the southern and south-eastern coasts of Australia each year. Off the coast of Tasmania, colonies can contain over 16 million adults and other colonies in Victoria and New South Wales hold a further two million or more. Birds arrive at the colonies during the night. The nest is a leaf-lined chamber at the end of a burrow in the ground.

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