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Photo – Gregory Smith Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0
UpperpartsSooty-brown with light borders to scapulars and back
Wings and tailAlmost black
UnderpartsLighter, brownish-grey
UnderwingGreyish-white spotted and shaded blackish-brown
LegsBlackish on outer side, grey or purplish on inner side
MoultsFebruary to September


The Sooty Shearwater Puffinus griseus has a uniformly dark, sooty plumage, except for the paler base of the quills and white band on the underwing that distinguishes it from other shearwaters.

They can be confused with the Balearic Shearwater which can appear the same colour at a distance. Sooty Shearwaters can be found around the Greater Shearwater, which they resemble in size, behaviour and habits.

Although there are differences in the plumage, the Sooty Shearwater appears heavier in the body, with narrow, pointed, rigid wings.


The Sooty Shearwater can often be seen following fishing boats in search of an easy meal. They feed on small fish, crustaceans, and cephalopods.


The breeding grounds of the Sooty Shearwater are in the south Atlantic and Pacific oceans. When migrating they go north as far as Labrador, Greenland, Faroes, and Norway. They have been seen as far east as Denmark and Algeria.

They follow a circular route when migrating, travelling up the western side of the Pacific and Atlantic once they have finished nesting. They reach subarctic waters in June and July before crossing from west to east, before returning south in September and October. By November they have reached their breeding colonies.

They can be seen from August to December in European waters. They regularly pass along the French coast in small groups or singly.