Puffinus assimilis baroli
Historic Little Shearwater photographed on August
25,2007 BBC Extreme Pelagic by Jeremiah Trimble. All photos on this page remain the exclusive
property of the photographers who have graciously shared
them with New England Seabirds. Please respect their
Sighting of Macronesian Shearwater in North American
On August 25, 2007, a Macronesian
Shearwater was spotted from the BBC Extreme Pelagic.
This bird was very cooperative and many pictures were
taken. To view these photographs go to this
To read more about the pelagic trip see
Reports 2007- BBC Extreme Pelagic.
What is a Macronesian
Shearwater and why isn't it in my bird book?
The short answer to this question is that the taxonomy of
Little Shearwater and Audubon's Shearwater is
under study. Harrison 1983, starts the discussion of the
Little Shearwater Puffinus assimilis with this sentence.
" Fragmented distribution in all three major oceans..."
Shearwaters and other
seabirds tend to return to their natal colonies to breed.
Any factor that leads to separate breeding populations favors
evolution into separate species.
The present status of
this shearwater on the America side of the Atlantic is still
under discussion and lumped with Little Shearwater. That is
where you will find it in the latest edition of Clements
Checklist of the Birds of the World. It has not in the
past made much difference since the Macronesian Shearwater was not thought to be in our waters until
the historic pelagic of August 25, 2007.
Little Shearwater and Audubon's
Three birds variously classified as
subspecies of Little and Audubon's Shearwater breed in the North
Atlantic and are distinguishable in the field.
Harrison 1983 lists 7 or 8 subspecies of Little Shearwater and 9
or 10 subspecies of Audubon's Shearwater.
Fortunately we need only
deal with three subspecies which breed and disburse in the North
Harrison has a subspecies of Little Shearwater Puffinus
assimilis baroli. Olney and Scofield 2007 elevate this
subspecies to Macronesian Shearwater Puffinus baroli and
move the Cape Verde subspecies P. a. boydi to Audubon's
The British Ornithological Union 2005 report combines the Cape
Verde subspecies formerly Puffinus assimilis boydi with
P.a.baroli as Macronesian Shearwater Puffinus baroli.
Little Shearwater / Audubon's
Shearwater Complex - A table to sort it all out maybe!
||Olney and Scofield 2007
Puffinus assimilis assimilis (SW Pacific)
P. a. elegans (southern oceans)
Azores, Desertas, Salvage and Canary Is)
Island status under review. Perhaps should be with
- (Breeds year
round Macronesia except Cape Verde)
(Breeds year round on Cape Verde Island)
lherminieri lherminieri (Carribean)
year round on Carribean Islands, Bermuda)
can I see it?
Go on many many
offshore pelagics and get very lucky. The only photograph
documented sighting on the American side of the Atlantic
of Macronesian Shearwater was on the
August 27, 2007 BBC Extreme
A more sure bet is to take a
trip to Macronesia.
Where is Macronesia?
From Wikipedia ²
Macaronesia is a modern collective name for
several groups of
islands in the
North Atlantic Ocean near
North Africa belonging to three countries:
Cape Verde. The name comes from the
Greek for "fortunate
islands", a term used by
geographers for islands to the west of the
Straits of Gibraltar.
Macronesian Shearwater on the 8/25/07 Trip
Most closely resembles a Manx or
Audubon's Shearwater. See
and Scofield 2007 for a complete description of
what they call the Manx Type Shearwaters and
the Little/Audubons Complex.
Macronesian Shearwater photographed on 8/25/2007 Extreme
Pelagic by Scott Spangenberg.
|I can do no better than to quote
directly Blair Nikula's description from his web page:
in these two photographs.
"... the extensively white
face with eye completely surrounded by white;
the rounded head;
white undertail coverts;
extensively white underwing with relatively narrow
blackish dorsal coloration;
pale grayish panel on the upper surface of the wing;
white "tabs" wrapping well around up onto the top
sides of the rump;
and white tips on the secondary coverts forming two
white bars on the inner wing."
Also observe in both
photographs that the legs
do not extend beyond the tail.
photographed by Jeremiah Trimble on August
on Taxonomy from the British Ornithological Union Webpage³
"Little Shearwater Puffinus assimilis
A recent molecular analysis indicates that the Little
Shearwater Puffinus assimilis and Audubon's
Shearwater P. lherminieri complex comprises three
monophyletic groups, which are distributed in the north
Atlantic Ocean, the Indian and Pacific oceans, and the
southern Atlantic Ocean and Australian and New Zealand
seas (Austin et al. 2004. Auk121:
The three forms breeding in the
tropical and subtropical parts of the Atlantic Ocean (
P. l. lherminieri, P. a. baroli, P. a. boydi )
that were included in this study formed a monophyletic
group which is not closely related to the other forms of
the complex (including nominate P. a. assimilis
The three tropical and subtropical
Atlantic taxa are best treated as two species:
- Macaronesian Shearwater P.
baroli (polytypic, with subspecies baroli
and boydi )
- Audubon's Shearwater P.
Macaronesian Shearwater P. b. baroli is on
Category A of the British List (replacing Little
Shearwater P. assimilis ).
The taxonomic status of P. b.
boydi remains under consideration pending study of
recently collected sound recordings of that taxon. "
¹ Onley and Scofield 2007
Albatrosses, Petrels & Shearwaters of the World
Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia -
Cite This Source
GEORGE SANGSTER, J. MARTIN COLLINSON, ANDREAS J. HELBIG, ALAN G.
KNOX, DAVID T. PARKIN (2005)
Taxonomic recommendations for British birds: third report
Ibis 147 (4), 821–826.