The Tristan da Cunha
Website / great shearwater
The Great Shearwater
Website Home Page
Wildlife and Conservation Home Page
The Great Shearwater


The photo from Stephen Pringle, who was aboard a cruise ship, shows a Great Shearwater at sea
about 250 miles SE of Montevideo in Uruguay (34 S, 54W) on 3rd March 2015.

Tristan Association committee member Sir Clive Elliott sent the image and adds the following:
The Great Shearwater of course breeds on Nightingale, Inaccessible and Gough.
There is one record of one pair breeding on the Falklands.
They are said to leave the breeding islands mainly in April and May but some leave earlier and they take a north-westerly direction towards the South American coast. In May and early June they reach the Atlantic coast of North America.
By August they spread east across the North Atlantic, and are occasionally seen off the coast of the UK.
The first birds to be seen back in the Tristan islands arrive around late August.
(see below for details of a 2008 project to track the southern migration of Great Shearwaters from Canadian waters).

The Great Shearwater or Petrel

The great shearwater or petrel (Puffinus gravis) has a wingspan up to 118cm and weighs up to 1.1kg. It breeds in burrows up to 1.5 m long dug into peat and is strongly seasonal, returning to colonies from late August to lay single eggs in November which hatch in January and chicks fledge by May.

The photograph left was taken on Nightingale Island where the peat soil is honey-combed with their burrows occupied during the October - May breeding season.

See also Nightingale Island Page


Amazing annual migration

Near endemic to the Tristan islands, the birds all migrate to the North Atlantic in winter, most travelling to waters off Newfoundland and Greenland for June and July and returning along a more easterly route.

Follow the 2008 migration ~
which is being monitored by scientists from the Grand Manan Whale and Seabird Station in the Bay of Fundy, Eastern Canada - see photographs, information and links below.


Healthy Population

The species is not threatened, with an estimated 2-3 million pairs at Nightingale, 2 million at Inaccessible, 1 million at Gough, and possibly a few pairs who have survived human and rat predation on Tristan.

Stamps depicting Great Shearwaters on Nightingale Island were issued on 1st July 2007

They are no longer available for sale but details can be viewed on the Tristan Stamp Archive page

2008 Great Shearwater Migration Monitoring Project
Organised in Canada by Rob Ronconi
Photos from Zach Swain

The map, right shows the migration route of birds tagged and monitored during the 2008 Great Shearwater project.


Rob Ronconi, representing the
Grand Manan Whale and Seabird
Research Station
situated on Grand Manon Island
in the Bay of Fundy, Eastern Canada, attached a radio tag
to Great Shearwaters
to monitor their southern migration, publishing updated information on the website.


Sarah Wong and Andrew Westgate preparing to fit a tag

Right :
A tagged Great Shearwater ready for release



Right :
A tagged bird flying off

Eight Great Shearwaters monitored

Eight birds were tagged and released between 14th-30th August 2008. They have been given the names of the seven Tristan surnames: Glass, Swain, Repetto, Hagan, Green, Rogers and Lavarello with the addition of Lambert who founded a temporary American Tristan settlement before his death in 1812.

Website Home Page
Wildlife and Conservation Home Page
Published by the Tristan da Cunha Government and the Tristan da Cunha Association. Copyright © 2015 and all Rights Reserved.