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Petrels and shearwaters

Manx shearwaters flying over sea

Image: Jo Garbutt

Seabirds, related to albatrosses and sharing peculiar arrangement of nostrils, giving the alternative name, ‘tubenoses’. Strictly marine, many coming ashore to breed in burrows, then only under the cover of darkness, although one of the most widespread, the fulmar, nests on open ledges. None are properly able to walk on land. 

Petrels in the UK are small, oceanic birds, which fly low over the sea, except for the larger fulmar.

Shearwaters are larger, long-winged, flying over vast areas of sea by using winds and air currents over the waves. There are many small petrels, as well as larger species, and many other kinds of shearwaters worldwide.

Balearic shearwater

Slightly larger than the closely related Manx shearwater, the Balearic shearwater is brown above and dull below. It flies with rapid, shallow wingbeats on stiffly held wings. It will rest on the water... More...

Balearic shearwater

Fulmar

Almost gull-like, this grey and white seabird is related to the albatrosses. It flies low over the sea on stiff wings, with shallow wingbeats, gliding and banking to show its white underparts then gre... More...

Fulmar

Great shearwater

A large shearwater, about the same size as a fulmar. It has dark grey-brown upperparts and pale underparts with a distinctive dark cap and pale neck, as well as dark underwing edges.... More...

Great shearwater

Leach's petrel

The leach's petrel is a starling-sized seabird. Birds are all black underneath and mostly black above, apart from a white rump. It has a forked tail. The white rump has a black line down it. Breeds on... More...

Leach's petrel

Manx shearwater

A small shearwater, it has long straight slim wings, and is black above and white below. It flies with a series of rapid stiff-winged flaps followed by long glides on stiff straight wings over the sur... More...

Manx shearwater

Sooty shearwater

The sooty shearwater is a seabird, that is smaller than a herring gull. It is a large shearwater, with dark brown body and wings and long wings. Its bill is dark and when seen close up, there is a pal... More...

Sooty shearwater