Manx shearwater

Manx Shearwater

©Chris Gomersall/2020VISION

Manx shearwater

Scientific name: Puffinus puffinus
This mysterious little bird is known for its haunting call and was once mistaken for witches by pirates off the coast of Wales! They travel thousands of miles every year to nest in their hobbit-like burrows to raise one super fluffy chick.

Species information


Length: 30-38cm
Wingspan: 76-82cm
Weight: 420g
Average lifespan: 15 years

Conservation status

Classified in the UK as Amber under the Birds of Conservation Concern 4: the Red List for Birds (2021).

When to see

February to July


Shearwaters are members of a group of birds known as ‘tubenoses’, the group also includes fulmar, giant albatrosses and tiny storm petrels. The incredible Manx shearwater flies for thousands of miles to return to the same burrow every year, nesting on small islands off the west coast of Britain. Raising only one extremely fluffy chick a year, the parents wait until the cover of darkness before heading out to fish. Shearwater chicks become so big that they are not able to leave the nest – and instead, must go on a crash diet in preparation for their big journey to South America for winter.

How to identify

A medium-sized black and white bird, the manx shearwater has long, stiff wings. About the size of a small gull, it is black above and white underneath.


Nests on rocky islands around the coasts of Wales, Scotland, Ireland and the Isles of Scilly.

Did you know?

A manx shearwater that nested on Bardsey Island in Wales in 2008 was more than 50 years old and estimated to have flown about 5 million miles in its lifetime.

How people can help

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