Little Shearwater – Accepted

1. 29 Oct 2003


Monterey Bay MTY



ph., NAB 58:137, San Miguel & McGrath (2005), record in re-review



Little Shearwater

LITTLE SHEARWATER Puffinus assimilis Gould, 1838

Accepted: 1 (100%)

Treated in Appendix H: no

Not accepted: 0

CBRC review: all records

Not submitted/reviewed: 0

Color image: none

This, the smallest shearwater, occurs in the northeastern Atlantic Ocean and widely across the southern oceans. The movements of birds from various populations, and the classification of those populations, are poorly known. The species has reached the Atlantic coast at least twice (ABA 2002). The identifications of a putative Little Shearwater collected on 18 February 1964 at Sand Island, Midway (Clapp and Woodward 1968) and of a similar bird photographed on Sand Island in December 1991 are currently being re-evaluated (fide P. Pyle). Gibson et al. (2003) published two unsubstantiated reports of Little Shearwaters from the Gulf of Alaska, on 26 August 1996 and 12 October 1997; details of the latter sighting were furnished by Day (2006).

Genetic analysis led Austin et al. (2004) to recommend reclassifying the Little Shearwater’s two northern subspecies, P. a. baroli and P. a. boydi, as part of Audubon’s Shearwater (P. lherminieri), and one of its southern subspecies, P. a. myrtae, as part of Newell’s Shearwater (P. newelli), but these issues are far from settled. Should the AOU adopt these proposed changes, all records of the Little Shearwater from the northwestern Atlantic Ocean would pertain to Audubon’s Shearwater, and California’s record (if not already overturned; see below) would probably be reviewed again to determine if the bird could be conclusively identified under the new taxonomy.

California’s record of the Little Shearwater involves a bird photographed on 29 October 2003 at Monterey Bay in Monterey County. The bird was reportedly smaller and smaller-billed than a Manx Shearwater (not present for comparison). Also noted were white lores, rounded wings with white outer webs to the undersides of the primaries, and bluish-gray legs. Audubon’s Shearwater has a long tail, and most of its subspecies have dark undertail coverts, whereas the Monterey bird had pure white undertail coverts and a short, wide tail. Audubon’s also lacks white outer webs on the undersides of the primaries.

In early 2007 questions have arisen regarding this bird’s identification, some of them coming from one of the observers involved in the sighting. In response, the CBRC has voted to re-review the record.