Wedge-tailed Shearwater

Wedge-tailed shearwater chick, Kilauea Point, Kauai, Hawaii

Wedge-tailed shearwater chick, Kilauea Point, Kauai, Hawaii

Named for the shape of its tail, the wedge-tailed shearwaters have a nesting colony on the north side of the Hawaiian Island of Kauai, not far from the Kilauea Point Lighthouse.  I spotted these chicks tucked under low-lying shrubs while walking to the Lighthouse.  This bird lives in various places around the world.


Adults are fairly large birds at 17 inches long.  Their diet is primarily fish, squid, and crustaceans, so the birds spend most of their life at sea.  They are made for the sea with long wings (38″ wingspan) suitable for long stretches of gliding, and legs set far back on the body to aid in swimming.

Kilauea Point, Kauai, Hawaii

Kilauea Point, Kauai, Hawaii


It is only when they are breeding that you will see them on land.  Here both parents dig burrows with their bills and feet.  They lay one egg and share responsibilities in incubating the egg and feeding the chick.


Sea-faring birds are not always so capable on land, and the shearwater is a prime example. Puffinus pacificus are vulnerable on land because they cannot walk.  Although they are masters of the sea soaring for long periods and snagging fish while in flight, their land skills are severely limited.


With legs set so far back on the body, the shearwater does not land effortlessly.  They crash into things to stop their momentum and laboriously waddle away.  They have no skills with lift-off either, can only take off if they are on a high ridge, utilizing gravityI was on a bird walk once on an Australian island when a shearwater came crashing into a man in our group.  Smacked the man really hard in the middle of his back; then the bird plopped to the ground and walked off. 


To compensate for this awkward, sometimes comical deficit, the shearwaters will audibly signal to their chicks, to each other, and to ward off intruders.  The sound is an eerie moan.  Their Hawaiian name ‘ua’u kani, means moaning petrel (petrel is a type of seabird).


A moaning seabird that crashes into objects …ahhhh….aloha.


Photo credit:  Athena Alexander


43 thoughts on “Wedge-tailed Shearwater

    • Hi my friend! The man first had an outburst, I think a combination of pain and surprise, then he was a little embarrassed I think, because he didn’t say much after that. I’m sure it hurt a lot, poor guy. I’m happy you liked today’s post, BJ, and appreciate your visit. 😀

  1. What an interesting bird! It reminded me a cartoon movie I had seen before — The Rescuers Down Under, I think. After reading this post, my love to bird tripled! Thank you.

  2. A Shearwater bird was ringed at about 5 years age and recaptured in 2003, the bird was 53 years old then, the oldest bird ever recorded and verified. (In Ireland) Thanks for this fine post Jet! 🙂

  3. That poor man probably looked like a nice soft place to land. It sounds hilarious, but I’m sure it wasn’t much fun for the poor man. GREAT info and images. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Eeek! Poor birds. They need educations from humans? You always share something unique and interesting. Oftentimes, I wonder how you do it. 😀 Thanks for the knowledge.

    • Yes, he does look solemn, doesn’t he? He’s pretty much a sitting duck, so I guess that explains the solemnity. Fortunately we moved on and didn’t eat him. ha. Great to visit with you today Gill. 😀

  5. What an interesting post! This bird is surely a resilient one! Crashing yet getting right back up again….Thank you for all of your informative posts…I’ve learned so much about animals from you!
    Happy Sunday!
    * Lia

  6. What a lovely post with sweet characters dear Jet!I so much enjoyed the way you described this adorable bird and its land-adventures!I also loved the portrait of the chick in the first photo and the fact that parents share responsibilities in incubating the egg and feeding the chick.I wish we,humans,always did the same … Thank you for your wonderful posts my lovely friend 🙂 ღ xxx ღ

    • Yes those shearwaters are endearing, especially if they don’t crash into your back…lol. We were lucky to find this little one hunkered under the bushes…so glad you enjoyed it, dear Doda. Thank you for your visits today, it is most appreciated. 🙂 🙂 😀

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