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Puffinus creatopus - Pink-footed Shearwater

Pink-footed Shearwater image

Geographic range:

When breeding Pink-footed Shearwaters are found on three South Pacific islands west of mainland Chile. Non breeding season they spend offshore over the continental shelf along the Pacific coast from Baja, Mexico north to southeastern Alaska,.

Key features:

Large, dark brown, stocky, broad-winged and white-bellied with slow, labored wing beats, pinkish feet and bill.

Similar species:

Puffinus bulleri -- Buller's Shearwater
Puffinus opisthomelas -- Black-vented Shearwater
Puffinus carneipes -- Flesh-footed Shearwater

Habitat(s):

Continental shelf, pelagic zone
 

Primary common name:

Pink-footed Shearwater

General grouping:

Seabirds and shorebirds

ITIS code:

174547
 

Geographic Range

Range Description:

The Pink-footed Shearwater is endemic to three islands offshore from Chile where it breeds. Isla Mocha, west of the central coast of Chile has the largest breeding population. Islands Robinson Crusoe and Santa Clara in the Juan Fernandez Archipelago of the South Pacific have smaller breeding colonies. All these islands have soil suitable for excavating nest burrows. After the breeding season from spring through fall these shearwaters range along the Pacific Coast from Baja Mexico to British Columbia and southeastern Alaska, seeming to prefer the more shallow, cold, and usually more productive waters that occur over the continental shelf and shelf breaks. They have also been seen off the coast of Argentina, and around Australia and New Zealand.

Habitats

Continental shelf, pelagic zone

Abundance

Relative abundance:

In MBNMS the Pink-footed Shearwater is common in the fall. Lesser numbers are present year round. Due to limited information about the size of breeding populations, the present global estimate is approximately 20,000 breeding pairs.

Species Description

General description:

The Pink-footed Shearwater is the largest of the shearwaters seen regularly off the Pacific coast. It is named for the pale pink color of its feet and at the base of its bill. They have a skimming flight pattern, flying just a few feet above the ocean surface, alternating slow wing beats with low glides over the water, sometimes in the company of other seabirds, but typically not with its own species. They are tubenoses, enhancing their sense of smell, helpful in locating prey, as they are attracted by the odor of fish oils, squid and krill. They have gray-brown upperparts, mottled brown flanks and undertail coverts. The rest of the underparts are dull white. Their head is gray-brown also and the pinkish bill is tipped in black and approximately 45 to 50 cm long. They are polymorphic, having both darker and lighter phase populations. They are generally silent at sea, but vocal in feeding groups, giving a nasal, descending whinny.

Distinctive features:

Large, dark brown, stocky, broad-winged and white-bellied with slow, labored wing beats, and a dusky head, pinkish feet and bill, with smudgy brownish markings on underparts.

Size:

Length: 19 in-48 cm
Wingspan:43 in-109 cm
Weight: 1.6 lb-720 g

Natural History

General natural history:

The Pink-footed Shearwater is in the order Procellariiformes, a group of birds that includes albatrosses, petrels, shearwaters, diving petrels and storm petrels. Birds in this order are also called “tubenoses” because they possess a pair of nasal tubes on top of their bill. They spend the vast majority of their life over the shallow waters of the continental shelf and come ashore only to breed. They are seldom seen from shore or over the deep mid-ocean waters. Tubenoses typically breed in colonies, usually on the same island on which they were raised. This group of seabirds is characterized by high adult survival, late age at first breeding, and low reproductive rates. They lay, at most, one egg per year and growth rates of chicks are among the slowest of any group of birds. Because of their deferred age of first breeding and low reproductive rates, populations are incapable of recovering quickly, even under favorable conditions.

Predator(s):

On their breeding islands introduced species such as rats and cats predate Pink-footed Shearwaters. Loss also occurs from entanglement in fishing gear.

Prey:

The diet of the Pink-footed Shearwater is not well known, but is mostly likely fish, squid, and possibly crustaceans. Pink-footed Shearwaters also follow fishing boats and feed on the offal from the boats.

Feeding behavior

Carnivore, Scavenger

Feeding behavior notes:

Pink-footed Shearwaters feed in offshore waters over the continental shelf, mostly on fish (sardines and anchovies), squid, and small amounts of crustaceans. They fly low over the sea with stiff-winged glides intermixed with labored wing-beats. They often tilt to one side, one wing almost slicing the water’s surface. They plunge into the water after prey, or dive from the surface while swimming, and swim under water using their wings to propel themselves. They will also follow boats for fish scraps.

April - May

Migration:

Pink-footed Shearwaters are transequatorial migrants, moving along the North American west coast toward subarctic waters of the Pacific after raising their young in the southern hemisphere. After more than three months caring for their single, slow-growing chick, Pink-footed Shearwaters, depart the breeding colonies to begin their migration. For these shearwaters, this migratory journey is merely a continuation of their wide-ranging lifestyle and their migratory routes have not yet been described. It is known that they move quickly through zones of relatively low productivity, and spend time in areas of productive upwelling.

May - September

Feeding:

During the northern summer, large numbers of Pink-footed Shearwaters are seen on the continental shelf waters of the west coast of the U.S. and British Columbia, a distance of at least 12,000 km from the breeding islands in Chile. They concentrate their foraging over waters rich in prey from upwelling.

September - September

Migration:

After spending their summer off the Pacific coast in the northern hemisphere Pink-footed Shearwaters return to their breeding island in Chile. Again, little is known about their route.

October - May

Reproduction:

Pink-footed Shearwaters are colonial breeders, nesting in underground burrows on forested slopes that they excavate using their bill and feet. Burrows typically exceed 1m in length and sometimes extend for more than 3m. A burrow may be used for many decades, with each pair modifying the burrow to their liking. Like most tubenoses, Pink-footed Shearwater pairs remain together for many years. Established pairs return in late October-early November to the same burrow used in past breeding seasons and may engage in duet calls and mutual preening. A single white egg is laid in late November-early December, with both sexes sharing incubation duties. The chick hatches in late January-early February, after 48-56 days. After brooding the chick for its first few days, parents leave it unattended in the burrow and head to sea in search of food. Satellite-tracked breeding shearwaters from the Juan Fernández Islands used continental shelf waters south of Concepción, Chile. These trips exceeded 1500 km roundtrip and lasted between 2 and 12 days. Chicks grow slowly, remaining in the burrow until they fledge in late April-early May. Once leaving the burrow, fledglings head directly to sea and are completely independent.

Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary:

This species has a very small breeding range at only three known locations, which renders it susceptible to random events and human impacts. The consistent use of shelf and shelf-break waters by Pink-footed Shearwaters and their overlap with fisheries and other human activities is a concern, and the species is globally listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN and is designated as a Species of Common Conservation Concern by the tri-national Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC). The biggest threat to this species is poor breeding success following loss of eggs and chicks to rats, cats, coatis, and dogs, as well as to local people. Goats and rabbits are responsible for over-grazing that leads to soil erosion and the loss of suitable nesting burrows. Like many seabirds, this species is also threatened by the fishing industry, as it becomes entangled in fishing gear across its range. Plastic debris and chemical (mercury) and oil pollution are also a threat. (Birdlife International unpublished data). The government of Chile has worked to improve the habitat of the shearwater since 1997. Collecting chicks is illegal, but enforcement is weak, and further efforts are necessary. The removal of introduced mammals has been proposed.
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