Sooty Shearwaters are 40-51 cm in length with a 94-110 cm wingspan. It has the typical `shearing` flight of the genus, dipping from side to side on stiff wings with few wing beats, the wingtips almost touching the water. This shearwater is identifiable by its dark plumage. In poor viewing conditions, it looks all black, but in good light, it shows as dark chocolate-brown a silvery strip along the center of the underwing.

Habitat and Distribution

Sooty Shearwaters breed on small islands in the south Pacific and south Atlantic Oceans, mainly around New Zealand, the Falkland Islands, Tierra del Fuego and also in the Auckland Islands and Phillip Island off Norfolk Island. They are spectacular long-distance migrants, following a circular route. travelling north up the western side of the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans at the end of the nesting season.


They feed on fish and squid. They can dive up to 68 m deep for food,but more commonly take surface food, in often by following whales to catch fish disturbed by them. They will also follow fishing boats to take fish scraps thrown overboard.


They breed in huge colonies and the female lays one white egg. These shearwaters nest in burrows lined with plant material, which are visited only at night to avoid predation by large gulls.

Calls and Songs

Usually loud, Sooty Shearwaters coo and croak while on the breeding grounds.