Pink-footed shearwater (Puffinus creatopus)

GenusPuffinus (1)
SizeLength: 48 cm (2)
Wingspan: 112 cm (3)

The pink-footed shearwater is classified as Vulnerable (VU D2) on the IUCN Red List 2004 (1) and is listed on Appendix I of the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS or Bonn Convention) (4).

Members of the shearwater genus cruise the oceans, gliding so low that they appear to shear the water surface. The wings are long and slender, usually used for gliding rather than flapping flight. The pink-footed shearwater is dully coloured, being mostly brown and white, but with pale pink feet and legs that give this species its name. The head and upperparts are brown, fading to white on the underside, with mottled sides and underwings. Both paler and darker individuals of the species have been seen (2).

Spending much of its time over the east Pacific Ocean, the pink-footed shearwater breeds on just three islands; Robinson Crusoe and Santa Clara in the Juan Fernández Islands, and Isla Mocha off the central Chilean coast. It spends the winter season off the western coast of North America, and has also been seen off the coast of Argentina, and around Australia and New Zealand (2).

A pelagic species, the pink-footed shearwater comes to land to breed, preferring to burrow into soil amongst scattered vegetation on the Juan Fernández Islands, but nesting on mountain ridges in a forest habitat (2).

Arriving at the breeding colonies in November and December, the pink-footed shearwater lays one white egg in a burrow between December and January. Both parents share the incubation duties, foraging in between shifts (2). After 48 – 56 days the egg hatches (3), and the chick will rapidly learn to fly, before leaving the breeding site in April or May (2).

Feeding out to sea, the pink-footed shearwater dives, plunges and picks food from the surface. It takes sardines, anchovies, squid and occasionally crustaceans (2) (3).

The biggest threat to this species is poor breeding success following loss of eggs and chicks to rats, cats, coatis, and dogs, as well as to local people. Goats and rabbits are responsible for over-grazing that leads to soil erosion and the loss of suitable nesting burrows. Like many seabirds, this species is also threatened by the fishing industry, as it becomes entangled in fishing gear across its range. Pollution may also be a threat (2).

In 1935 the Juan Fernández Islands were designated as a National Park, but were only protected from 1967. In 1977 they were upgraded to become a Biosphere Reserve, and they have now been nominated for inclusion in the list of World Heritage Sites. The breeding site on Isla Mocha is in a guarded national reserve which has had a management plan since 1998. The government of Chile has worked to improve the habitat of the shearwater since 1997. Collecting chicks is illegal, but enforcement is weak, and further efforts are necessary. The removal of introduced mammals has been proposed (2).

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:

  1. IUCN Red List (July, 2014)