These medium-sized long-winged seabirds are most common in temperate and cold waters. They are pelagic outside the breeding season.
These tubenose birds fly with stiff wings, and use a “shearing” flight technique to move across wave fronts with the minimum of active flight. Some small species, like Manx Shearwater are cruciform in flight, with their long wing held directly out from their bodies.
Shearwaters come to islands and coastal cliffs only to breed. They are nocturnal at the colonial breeding sites, preferring moonless nights. This is to minimise predation. They nest in burrows and often give eerie contact calls on their nighttime visits. They lay a single white egg.
They feed on fish, squid and similar oceanic food.
Shearwaters are part of the family Procellariidae, which also includes fulmars, prions and petrels.
The Sibley-Ahlquist taxonomy gives a radically different scientific arrangement for this group based on DNA studies.
List of species: