Thursday 23 May
Newell’s shearwater (Puffinus newelli)
What’s the World’s Favourite Species?Find out here.
Newell’s shearwater fact file
- Find out more
- Print factsheet
Newell’s shearwater description
Newell’s shearwater is called the ‘A’o in Hawaii, a name given for the moan-like call this seabird emits when in its burrow, which Hawaiians once believed sounded like an omen of death (3). This attractive bird and magnificent flier is undeserving of such an association, and is now so rare, one would be lucky to hear its nesting cry (3). It has dark, sooty brown plumage on its upperparts and white underparts, with the white extending up the throat and to the sides of the rump (2) (4). It has a dark bill (4), with a hooked bill and sharp blades, enabling it to deal with slippery prey with ease (5).
- Also known as
- Puffinus auricularis newelli. Top
- State of Hawaii – Shearwater Action Page:
- BirdLife International:
- A group comprising all whale species; therefore including dolphins and porpoises.
- IUCN Red List (June, 2008)
- Brooke, M. (2004) Albatrosses and Petrels across the World. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
- Denny, J. (1999) The Birds of Kaua'i. University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu.
- Mitchell, C., Ogura, C., Meadows, D.W., Kane, A., Strommer, L., Fretz, S., Leonard, D. and McClung, A. (2005) Hawaii’s Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy. Department of Land and Natural Resources, Honolulu, Hawai‘i.
- Burnie, D. (2001) Animal. Dorling Kindersley, London.
- BirdLife International (September, 2008)
- view the contents of, and Material on, the website;
- download and retain copies of the Material on their personal systems in digital form in low resolution for their own personal use;
- teachers, lecturers and students may incorporate the Material in their educational material (including, but not limited to, their lesson plans, presentations, worksheets and projects) in hard copy and digital format for use within a registered educational establishment, provided that the integrity of the Material is maintained and that copyright ownership and authorship is appropriately acknowledged by the End User.
Newell’s shearwater biology
Like other shearwaters, this species flies fast and often low over the ocean (2). Here it forages, often in association with wedge-tailed shearwaters, sooty terns and boobies, for small fish and squid (2). It dives into the water to pursue and capture its prey, often exploiting the actions of tuna and cetaceans, as they drive shoals of small fish to the surface (2).
In the last week of April, adult Newell’s shearwaters arrive at their island nesting grounds. During the first two weeks of June, they lay a precious, single egg into a burrow which has been dug under matted ferns or tussock grass (2), often at the base of a tree (4). The egg is thought to be incubated for around 51 days by both parents (2), who continue their parental care when the egg hatches, spending the daylight hours foraging in the ocean surrounding the island, travelling up to 1,200 kilometres from the colony, and returning at night to feed the chick (2) (4). By November, the young will have fledged and the parents provide no further care, leaving the young to start life on the open oceans (4). During the first year of life, Newell’s shearwaters do not visit breeding islands, but as they age, they will visit colonies for progressively longer periods, until they first breed at the age of six (2).Top
Newell’s shearwater range
Newell’s shearwater breeds only on the Hawaiian Islands: principally Kaua‘i, but also Hawai‘i and Moloka‘i, and possibly also on O‘ahu, Maui, and Lāna‘i (6). At other times of the year, this oceanic bird wanders far over the central Pacific Ocean (2).Top
Newell’s shearwater habitat
Newell’s shearwaters are oceanic birds, found north of the equator over waters deeper than 2,000 metres (2). It nests on steep, mountain slopes, typically between 160 and 1,200 metres above sea level and up to 14 kilometres from the coast (2).Top
Newell’s shearwater status
Classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List (1).Top
Newell’s shearwater threats
Since 1992, numbers of Newell’s shearwaters on Kaua’i have been declining. Although this decline is thought to be associated with the impacts of Hurricane Iniki, which hit the island in 1992, numerous other factors could also be implicated. Artificial lighting on the breeding islands, such as street and resort lights, is affecting large numbers of Newell’s shearwaters. Lights disorientate fledglings as they depart the island for life at sea, causing them to crash into powerlines, communication towers or other structures, or fall to the ground exhausted. Once on the ground, the small birds are vulnerable to cars, cats, dogs, starvation and dehydration, resulting in thousands perishing each year (4).
When nesting, Newell’s shearwater is vulnerable to predation from introduced mammals (4). Feral cats have been recorded killing nesting birds in their burrows (4), and rats are believed to prey on eggs and chicks (6). Also of concern is the small Asian mongoose (Herpestes javanicus), another potential predator that has recently been discovered on Kaua`i (6). Newell’s shearwater is likely to be impacted by the loss and degradation of suitable nesting habitat. Already 75 percent of Kaua’i’s natural forest has been lost in the last 150 years (4), and the remaining forest is now being impacted by introduced plants, pigs and goats (4) (6). Out at sea, overfishing of tuna species, which aid the shearwater by driving prey to the surface, may eventually affect this bird (4).
Finally, given that the majority of Newell’s shearwaters breed on a single island, this makes them highly vulnerable to the impacts of catastrophic events, such as hurricanes (4). The declines observed in this species since the hurricane of 1992 illustrate this sobering situation only too well (6).Top
Newell’s shearwater conservation
Several conservation actions have been initiated for this Endangered bird. In 1978, a campaign to rescue and rehabilitate fallen fledglings began (4). Entitled Save our Shearwaters, this campaign recovers and releases around 1,500 disorientated shearwaters each year (2) (4). Since the early 1980s, efforts have been made to reduce the amount of glaring lights that attract and disorientate shearwaters (4). In 2006, a law was passed which requires all non-essential lights to be turned off or shielded between September and December on Kaua’i, when young shearwaters leave their nests (6), and recently, hoods (to prevent lights shining into the sky) have been installed on all lights on the island (4).
These are fantastic efforts, but yet more needs to be done to ensure the future survival of this species. Future recommended management measures include controlling introduced predators, eradicating invasive plants from the sites of shearwater colonies, and continuing to identify areas where the use of artificial lights and powerlines can be minimized (4).Top
Find out more
For further information on the conservation of Newell’s shearwater see:
For more information on this and other bird species please see:
AuthenticationThis information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact: firstname.lastname@example.orgTop
More »Related species
Play the Team WILD game
MyARKive offers the scrapbook feature to signed-up members, allowing you to organize your favourite ARKive images and videos and share them with friends.
Terms and Conditions of Use of Materials
Copyright in this website and materials contained on this website (Material) belongs to Wildscreen or its licensors.
Visitors to this website (End Users) are entitled to:
End Users shall not copy or otherwise extract, alter or manipulate Material other than as permitted in these Terms and Conditions of Use of Materials.
Additional use of flagged material
Green flagged material
Certain Material on this website (Licence 4 Material) displays a green flag next to the Material and is available for not-for-profit conservation or educational use. This material may be used by End Users, who are individuals or organisations that are in our opinion not-for-profit, for their not-for-profit conservation or not-for-profit educational purposes. Low resolution, watermarked images may be copied from this website by such End Users for such purposes. If you require high resolution or non-watermarked versions of the Material, please contact Wildscreen with details of your proposed use.
Creative commons material
Certain Material on this website has been licensed to Wildscreen under a Creative Commons Licence. These images are clearly marked with the Creative Commons buttons and may be used by End Users only in the way allowed by the specific Creative Commons Licence under which they have been submitted. Please see http://creativecommons.org for details.
Any other use
Please contact the copyright owners directly (copyright and contact details are shown for each media item) to negotiate terms and conditions for any use of Material other than those expressly permitted above. Please note that many of the contributors to ARKive are commercial operators and may request a fee for such use.
Save as permitted above, no person or organisation is permitted to incorporate any copyright material from this website into any other work or publication in any format (this includes but is not limited to: websites, Apps, CDs, DVDs, intranets, extranets, signage, digital communications or on printed materials for external or other distribution). Use of the Material for promotional, administrative or for-profit purposes is not permitted.