Galapagos Shearwaters & Petrels Facts

  • Category:
  • Family:
  • Endemic subspecies:
    Audubon's Shearwater; Dark-rumped Petrel

A total of 12 species of shearwaters and petrels have been recorded in Galapagos, but only 2 are residents. Although the species in the family Procellariidae range from the large giant petrels to the diminutive prions (which have both been recorded as vagrants to Galapagos), the species which are recorded regularly can be divided into two groups: shearwaters and petrels. All species in the family are long-winged, have short legs and webbed feet, and raised nostril tubes at the base of the bill. Shearwaters are medium-sized, rather compact seabirds with long, slender bills and straight, stiffly-held wings in flight. Petrels are similar in size and shape to shearwaters but, in comparison, have short, deep bills and in flight tend to hold their wings slightly forward from the shoulder and sharply angled at the wrist or carpal joint. In all species recorded in Galapagos the sexes are alike and immature plumages resemble adult plumage.


  • Scientific Name:
    Puffinus lherminieri
  • Length:
    27 - 33 cm (10.6 - 13 in)
  • Wingspan:
    64 - 74 cm (25 - 29 in)
Galapagos Audubon's Shearwater

Common resident; endemic subspecies subalaris. Population estimated at c. 10,000 pairs in about c. 30 colonies; breeds throughout the year, nesting in crevices or burrows which are visited during the day. It is often seen during a Galapagos cruise.


A small shearwater; the only species breeding in Galapagos. Blackish upperparts and crown, white underparts and throat. Underwings white with dark trailing-edge and wing-rip.


Usually silent at sea, but a loud "kee-kaa-cooo" is given near the breeding colony.


Pelagic. Flight is direct, often just skimming the surface of the sea, with stiff wings and rapid wing beats interspersed with short glides. Often forms large feeding flocks, some times close inshore. Feeds by plunge-diving from or close to the surface.


  • Scientific Name:
    Pterodroma phaeopygia
  • Length:
    43 cm (17 in)
  • Wingspan:
    91 cm (35.8 in)D
  • Conservation Status:
Galapagos Dark-rumped Petrel

Uncommon resident; endemic subspecies phaeopygia often treated as a separate species: 'Galapagos Petrel'. Population estimated at 10,000 - 50,000 pairs in four colonies located in the highlands; breeds throughout the year, with different colonies nesting at different times; nests in burrows which are visited only at night. Not often seen during a Galapagos cruise.


A large, long-winged petrel. Upperparts, crown and side of neck and breast uniform brownish-black; underparts and sides of rump white; conspicuous white forehead; underwing white with black line running along forewing and across centre of wing towards body. Small black mark in 'armpits' is diagnostic


Silent at sea but calls at night near breeding colony "kee - kee - kee - (c)ooo".


Pelagic. Flight action characteristic: in calm weather involving a series of 3 or 4 flaps followed by a long glide on bowed and angled wings; in windy conditions glides in spectacular long arcs, high above the water, with wings bowed. Usually found well away from land during the day. Feeds from the surface whilst resting on the sea or by dipping in flight.

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