Shearwater, a web-footed bird of the petrel family, and genus puffinus (Briss.). The bill is about as long as the head, slender, compressed near the end and grooved obliquely on the sides, with strong, curved, and acute tip; nostrils basal, with two distinct tubes, side by side; wings very long and pointed, the first quill longest; tail short and rounded; tarsi as long as middle toe and compressed; toes long and united by a full web; in some there is a straight claw in place of a hind toe. They are moderate-sized, found in both hemispheres, and are met with at sea, often many hundred miles from land, even in the most tempestuous weather, skimming and running over the waves in search of food; they are light and graceful swimmers, good divers, and pat the surface of the water with their feet like the petrels; they are rapid fliers, and can keep on the wing all day, resting on the ocean if need be at night; they breed in company, in burrows made by themselves or small mammals; they lay only one egg, and the young are covered with long down. - The greater shearwater (P. major, Fa-ber) is about 20 in. long and 45 in. in alar extent; the upper plumage is brownish ash, the lower grayish white; lower back and upper tail coverts dark brown; primaries and tail brownish black, the feathers of the wings with white on the inner webs; bill yellowish green, with dark, tip; tarsi and feet yellow.
This species is found on the European side of the Atlantic, and ranges on the American coast from the gulf of St. Lawrence to Florida. It mingles with the fulmars, and on being approached ejects from the nostrils an oily substance; on land, where it goes only to breed, it walks as well as a duck. The food consists of fishes, crustaceans, algae, and other marine products, and floating animal substances. The Manx shearwater (P. Anglorum, Ray) is 15 in. long and 32 in. in alar extent; the upper plumage is black, the under white, bill brownish black, legs and feet dull orange. It is abundant on the Orkney and other northern islands, and on the American coast from New Jersey to Labrador; it breeds in rabbit burrows in the Orkneys between March and August, and all the rest of the year is at sea; the young are fat, and the natives salt and eat them. - Some writers give the name shearwater to the genus rhynchops. (See Skimmee).
Greater Shearwater (Puffinus major).