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Overview

Comprehensive Description

The Wedge-tailed Shearwater is a grey-brown petrel with distinctive wedge-shaped tail. It has a grey bill and pink feet. Most of these birds in Australia are dark all over, but some are white breasted.

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Distribution

National Distribution

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Breeding

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Global Range: (>2,500,000 square km (greater than 1,000,000 square miles)) BREEDS: Revillagigedo Islands (western Mexico), Hawaii (Kure east to Kauai and Oahu, and on small islets around main islands), central and western Pacific islands south to southern Australia and New Zealand, and Indian Ocean. RANGES at sea in Pacific off west coast of Middle America and South America (from Baja California, the Tres Marias Islands, and Nayarit south to Panama, Colombia, and Ecuador, and throughout most of central and western Pacific Ocean north to Japan and Formosa; and in Indian Ocean (AOU 1983).

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Range Description

The Wedge-tailed Shearwater ranges across from throughout the tropical Pacific and Indian Ocean roughly between latitudes 35°N and 35°S, breeding on a large number of oceanic islands and on the east and west coasts of Australia (del Hoyo et al. 1992).
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Range

Widespread tropical Pacific and Indian oceans.

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Distribution:


    Tropical and subtropical Indian and Pacific Oceans: in Indian Ocean, breeds from Madagascar area E to W Australia; in Pacific, breeds from Japan S to E Australia, and E to Revillagigedo Is (off W Mexico), Marquas Is and Pitcairn I.


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Physical Description

Size

Length: 43 cm

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40-45 cm

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Diagnostic Description

The Wedge-tailed Shearwater is a grey-brown petrel with distinctive wedge-shaped tail. It has a grey bill and pink feet. Most of these birds in Australia are dark all over, but some are white breasted.

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Type Information

Type for Puffinus pacificus
Catalog Number: USNM 113445
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Birds
Sex/Stage: unknown;
Preparation: Skin: Whole
Collector(s): V. Knudsen
Locality: Kauai County, Kauai Island, Main Hawaiian Islands, North Pacific Ocean
  • Type: Stejneger. November 8, 1888. Proc. U.S. Nat. Mus. 11: 93.
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Ecology

Habitat

Comments: Pelagic. Nests in burrow, crevice, sometimes on ground surface (usually in shade); on offshore islet, atoll, barren headland. Typical breeding area is low, flat islands and sand spits with little or no vegetation. Integrity of the burrow demands either firm soil or some vegetation to hold soil together (Whittow 1997). Uses slopes of extinct volcanoes and old volcanic craters in main Hawaiian Islands. Usually no tall woody plants in nesting areas; these would impair flight paths of birds to and from nesting burrows, but grass can be quite long and dense in vicinity of burrow. Readily uses artificial burrows (Byrd 1979, Byrd et al. 1983). Generally returns to same nesting area in successive years.

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Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
This marine species can nearly always be found over pelagic waters except when at colonies. It feeds mostly on fish, with some cephaolopods, crustaceans and insects. It catches prey mainly on the wing by dipping but also by surface-seizing or pursuit-plunging. It will congregate with other seabirds and dolphins when around schooling fish, and will often attend trawlers and smaller fishing boats. Its breeding season is very variable nesting in burrows in colonies on offshore islands or atolls (del Hoyo et al. 1992).

Systems
  • Terrestrial
  • Marine
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Depth range based on 116 specimens in 1 taxon.
Water temperature and chemistry ranges based on 100 samples.

Environmental ranges
  Depth range (m): 0 - 0
  Temperature range (°C): 10.401 - 28.903
  Nitrate (umol/L): 0.037 - 3.951
  Salinity (PPS): 33.176 - 36.318
  Oxygen (ml/l): 4.556 - 6.574
  Phosphate (umol/l): 0.145 - 0.674
  Silicate (umol/l): 1.374 - 6.162

Graphical representation

Temperature range (°C): 10.401 - 28.903

Nitrate (umol/L): 0.037 - 3.951

Salinity (PPS): 33.176 - 36.318

Oxygen (ml/l): 4.556 - 6.574

Phosphate (umol/l): 0.145 - 0.674

Silicate (umol/l): 1.374 - 6.162
 
Note: this information has not been validated. Check this *note*. Your feedback is most welcome.

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Oceans, islands off east and west coast of Australia.

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Migration

Non-Migrant: No. All populations of this species make significant seasonal migrations.

Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make local extended movements (generally less than 200 km) at particular times of the year (e.g., to breeding or wintering grounds, to hibernation sites).

Locally Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species make annual migrations of over 200 km.

In Hawaii, migrants begin to arrive in nesting areas in March; depart in November (Byrd et al. 1983). Mostly January-March off coast of Costa Rica (Stiles and Skutch 1989).

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Trophic Strategy

Comments: Young are fed by regurgitation.

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Feeds on ocean, diving for fish.

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Population Biology

Global Abundance

>1,000,000 individuals

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General Ecology

Seasonally in large flocks well off coast (Costa Rica, Stiles and Skutch 1989). Nesting success on larger islands in Hawaii often reduced by introduced predators (mongoose, dogs, cats, common myna) (Byrd et al. 1983).

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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

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Cyclicity

Comments: Flight activity at nesting areas primarily nocturnal or crepuscular.

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Life Expectancy

Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Maximum longevity: 29 years (wild) Observations: Oldest banded individual recovered was 29 years old (http://bna.birds.cornell.edu/).
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Reproduction

In Hawaii, eggs are laid in June. Clutch size is 1. Incubation, by both sexes, lasts 51-55 days. Hawaii: nestling period lasts 99-115 days; fledging peaks in mid-November (Byrd et al. 1983). Multiannual pair bond.

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Breeds in large colonies. Nests under sand in 1-2m long burrow. Nest lined with grass and feathers. 1 white egg.

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Puffinus pacificus

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


There are 8 barcode sequences available from BOLD and GenBank.

Below is a sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.

See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen and other sequences.

CCTATACCTAATTTTTGGCGCATGAGCCGGTATAGTCGGAACCGCCCTTAGCTTACTCATTCGTGCAGAACTTGGTCAACCAGGGACACTCCTGGGGGATGACCAAATCTACAATGTAATCGTCACCGCCCATGCTTTCGTAATAATCTTCTTCATAGTAATACCCGTCATAATTGGAGGATTCGGAAACTGATTAGTTCCCCTCATAATCGGTGCGCCCGACATAGCATTCCCACGTATAAATAACATAAGCTTCTGATTACTACCTCCATCCTTCCTCCTCCTACTAGCCTCCTCTACAGTAGAGGCAGGAGCAGGCACAGGGTGAACTGTATATCCTCCCCTGGCTGGTAATCTTGCCCATGCCGGAGCCTCAGTCGATCTGGCCATCTTCTCTCTCCACCTAGCAGGGGTATCATCTATCCTAGGGGCAATCAACTTCATTACAACAGCTATCAACATAAAACCCCCAGCTCTATCACAATACCAAACCCCTTTATTCGTATGATCCGTACTCATCACTGCCGTCCTACTCCTACTCTCACTTCCAGTCCTCGCAGCAGGGATCACTATACTATTAACAGACCGAAACCTAAACACTACATTCTTTGACCCAGCTGGTGGAGGAGACCCAGTCCTATATCAACACCTTTTCTGATTCTTTGGCCACNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN
-- end --

Download FASTA File

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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Puffinus pacificus

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 8
Specimens with Barcodes: 17
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

National NatureServe Conservation Status

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: NNRB - Unranked

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G4 - Apparently Secure

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IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
LC
Least Concern

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2012

Assessor/s
BirdLife International

Reviewer/s
Butchart, S. & Symes, A.

Contributor/s

Justification
This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
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Status in Egypt

Accidental visitor.

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Not Threatened.

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Population

Population
Brooke (2004) estimated the global population to number > c.5,200,000 individuals, while national population sizes have been estimated at c.50-10,000 individuals on migration in Taiwan and c.10,000-100,000 breeding pairs and c.1,000-10,000 individuals on migration in Japan (Brazil 2009).

Population Trend
Decreasing
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Threats

Comments: Fledglings are attracted to lights on Oahu in fall; many hit by cars or killed by cats or dogs (Shallenberger 1984).

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Wikipedia

Wedge-tailed shearwater

The wedge-tailed shearwater (Puffinus pacificus) is a medium-large shearwater in the seabird family Procellariidae. It is one of the shearwater species that is sometimes referred to as a muttonbird, like the sooty shearwater of New Zealand and the short-tailed shearwater of Australia. It ranges across from throughout the tropical Pacific and Indian Ocean roughly between latitudes 35°N and 35°S. It breeds on islands off of Japan, on the Islas Revillagigedo, the Hawaiian Islands, the Seychelles and off Western Australia.

Description[edit]

The pale morph and dark morphs side by side.
W-tail.JPG

The wedge-tailed shearwater is the largest of the tropical shearwaters. There are two colour morphs of the species, dark and pale; the pale morphs predominate in the North Pacific, the dark morph elsewhere. However, both morphs exist in all populations, and bear no relation to sex or breeding condition. The pale morph has grey-brown plumage on the back, head and upperwing, and whiter plumage below. The darker morph has the same dark grey-brown plumage over the whole body. The species’ common name is derived from the large wedge-shaped tail, which may help the species glide. The bill is dark and legs are salmon pink, with the legs set far back on the body (in common with the other shearwaters) as an adaptation for swimming.

This species is related to the pan-Pacific Buller's shearwater, which differs much in colour pattern, but also has a wedge tail and a thin black bill (Austin, 1996; Austin et al., 2004). They make up the Thyellodroma group, a superspecies in the large shearwaters of the proposed genus Ardenna (Penhallurick & Wink, 2004).

Diet[edit]

Wedge-tailed shearwaters feed pelagically on fish, squid and crustaceans. Their diet is 66% fish, of which the most commonly taken is goatfish. It was thought that the species mostly took food from surface feeding, observations of feeding wedge-tails suggested that contact-dipping, where birds flying close to the surface snatch prey from the water was the most commonly used hunting technique. However, a 2001 study which deployed maximum depth recorders found that 83% of wedge-tails dived during foraging trips with a mean maximum depth of 14 m and that they could achieve a depth of 66 m (Burger, 2001).

Breeding behaviour[edit]

The wedge-tailed shearwater breeds in colonies on small tropical islands. Breeding seasons vary depending on location, with synchronised breeding seasons more common at higher latitudes. Northern hemisphere birds begin breeding around February, southern hemisphere birds begin around September. Wedge-tailed shearwaters display natal philopatry, returning to their natal colony to begin breeding at the age of four.

Chick of wedge-tailed shearwater in burrow, Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge

Wedge-tailed shearwaters are monogamous, forming a long term pair bond that lasts for several years. Divorce between pairs occurs after breeding seasons that end in failure. Nesting either in burrows or sometimes on the surface under cover. Pairs call frequently as a pair, both to reinforce the pair bond and warn intruders away from their territory. Parents also call to their chicks. The call is long, with an inhaling component (OOO) and exhaling component (err); their Hawaiian name ’ua’u kani means moaning petrel. Both sexes participate in digging a burrow, or repairing the burrow from last year. Nesting burrows of other species are also used. The breeding season of the Bonin petrel in Hawaii is timed to avoid that of the wedge-tail; in years where Bonin petrel chicks are still in burrows when wedge-tails return to begin breeding these chicks are killed or evicted. It attends these colonies nocturnally, although non-breeding wedge-tails are often seen at the surface throughout the day and breeding birds will rest outside their burrows before laying.

Juvenile wedge-tailed shearwater, Kilaeau, Kauai, Hawaii

Both sexes undertake a prelaying exodus in order to build up energy reserves, this usually lasts around 28 days. A single egg is laid, if that egg is lost then the pair will not attempt another that season. After laying, the male usually undertakes the first incubation stint. Both sexes incubate the egg, in stints that can last up to 13 days. Incubation takes around 50 days. After hatching, the chick is brooded for up to six days, until it is able to thermoregulate, after which it is left alone in the nest while both parents hunt for food. It is initially fed with stomach oil, an energy rich waxy oil of digested prey created in the parent’s gut; later it is fed both solids and stomach oil. Like many procellariids, wedge-tailed shearwater parents alternate long and short trips to provide food, with the parents alternating between short foraging trips (1–4 days) and long trips (about 8 days), the two parents coordinating their feeding effort. Chicks increase in size to 560 g (larger than the adults) then drop to around 430 g before fledging. Fledging occurs after 103–115 days, after which the chick is independent of the adult.

Known breeding colonies include:

Media[edit]

Pair "singing", Lady Elliot Island, Queensland, Australia


References[edit]

  • Austin, Jeremy J. (1996): Molecular Phylogenetics of Puffinus Shearwaters: Preliminary Evidence from Mitochondrial Cytochrome b Gene Sequences. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 6(1): 77–88. doi:10.1006/mpev.1996.0060 (HTML abstract)
  • Austin, Jeremy J.; Bretagnolle, Vincent & Pasquet, Eric (2004): A global molecular phylogeny of the small Puffinus shearwaters and implications for systematics of the Little-Audubon's Shearwater complex. Auk 121(3): 847–864. DOI: 10.1642/0004-8038(2004)121[0847:AGMPOT]2.0.CO;2 HTML abstract
  • Burger, A. (2001): Diving depths of Shearwaters Auk 118(3):755–759 DOI: 10.1642/0004-8038(2001)118[0755:DDOS]2.0.CO;2 HTML abstract HTML fulltext (without images)
  • Congdon, Brad C.; Krockenberger, Andrew K., & Smithers, Brian V. (2005): Dual-foraging and co-ordinated provisioning in a tropical Procellariiform, the wedge-tailed shearwater. Marine Ecology Progress Series (310): 293-301.
  • Penhallurick, John & Wink, Michael (2004): Analysis of the taxonomy and nomenclature of the Procellariformes based on complete nucleotide sequences of the mitochondrial cytochrome b gene. Emu 104(2): 125-147. doi:10.1071/MU01060 (HTML abstract)
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