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Flesh-footed Shearwater

Puffinus carneipes
The tube-nosed seabirds, as this group is sometimes called, spend much of their life on the high seas out of sight of land, gleaning food from the water's surface. For most, the nesting season is the only time of the year that they touch land. They are drably colored—usually gray, black, or brown, with white—and range in size from small to very large. External nostrils on the upper mandible endow these birds with an unusually well developed sense of smell and contain a gland used for excreting salt. The order has four families worldwide, of which three are represented in Washington:
This group is diverse and ranges widely in size. A common trait that all members of this family share is that their nostrils are located in a single tube at the top of their bills. Most maneuver well in high winds, and many migrate long distances. Most, but not all, nest in burrows. Those that do nest in burrows visit them only at night. The well-developed sense of smell of the shearwaters may help them find their burrows in the dark.
Rare pelagic.

    General Description

    Closely related to the Pink-footed Shearwater, the Flesh-footed Shearwater is solid, dark black-brown in color, with a pinkish beak and feet. The undersides of the wings may appear silver in flight.


    In the non-breeding season, the Flesh-footed Shearwater inhabits the open ocean. It prefers to keep to warm waters, not commonly venturing as far north as many other shearwater species found off the coast of Washington. Pink-footed Shearwaters nest on islands with soil suitable for digging burrows for nests.


    Although they seldom come close to the boats, they readily follow commercial fishing vessels and will dive after offal thrown overboard.


    The diet of the Pink-footed Shearwater consists of fish, squid, and crustaceans


    Colony nesters, Flesh-footed Shearwaters nest on islands off the coast of Australia and New Zealand. They are active on the colonies mostly at night. They nest in underground burrows that may be over four feet long. The female lays a single egg in December, and both parents incubate. Once the egg hatches, both parents feed the chick, which leaves the island and heads to sea in April or May.

    Migration Status

    Like all shearwaters, the Flesh-footed Shearwater breeds in the Southern Hemisphere's summer, from September through April. It spends the non-breeding season in the Northern Hemisphere from May to September.

    Conservation Status

    Flesh-footed and Pink-footed Shearwaters are closely related, and some authorities consider them to be the same species. There are two main populations of Flesh-footed Shearwaters, those nesting in western Australia and those nesting in New Zealand. The birds that nest in New Zealand winter in the North Pacific.

    When and Where to Find in Washington

    Flesh-footed Shearwaters are found uncommonly off the coast of Washington from May to October, almost always near shrimp trawlers. The best way to see them is on a boat trip. Typically only one or two birds are seen at a time, but flocks of up to 60 have been seen off Vancouver Island (British Columbia).

    Abundance Code DefinitionsAbundance

    C=Common; F=Fairly Common; U=Uncommon; R=Rare; I=Irregular
    Oceanic RRRRRUUU
    Pacific Northwest Coast
    Puget Trough
    North Cascades
    West Cascades
    East Cascades
    Canadian Rockies
    Blue Mountains
    Columbia Plateau

    Washington Range Map

    Federal Endangered Species ListAudubon/American Bird Conservancy Watch ListState Endangered Species ListAudubon Washington Vulnerable Birds List

    View full list of Washington State's Species of Special Concern