#Creature Feature – Puffinus assimilis (Little Shearwater) 

Puffinus assimilis, better known as the Little Shearwater, is a small shearwater bird hailing from the petrel family, Procellariidae. Despite its genus name, Puffinus, the little shearwater is not related to the puffin, however they are both burrow-nesting seabirds. 

This species inhabits islands and coastal cliffs, breeding in large colonies. In the Northern Agricultural Region, Lancelin Island is home to a large colony of little shearwaters, as documented in a recent report by the WA Seabird Conservation Network. Of the 14 species breeding on Lancelin Island, they are the only birds to breed during winter months. 

A very social species, these birds can often be spotted in large numbers from coastlines and boats, especially during migration. While silent at sea, breeding colonies come to life after sundown with loud, raucous vocalisations. It is only during the night that they visit their nesting burrows, a strategic behaviour to avoid predation by gulls and other large sea birds. These shearwaters prefer to create nesting burrows from pre-existing cavities, often among rocks and headlands. After an incubation period of around 55 days, usually only one egg is produced.  

Little shearwaters grow to around 25-30cm in length, and have a wingspan of 58-67cm, with black feathers on the top side of their wings, and pale coloured inner flight feathers underneath. Their faces are pale white from the slender bill up to the distinctive dark eye, and the upper face becomes black in colour.  

They fly by ‘shearing’, a technique typical of their genus, which is characterised by dipping from side to side with very few beats, soaring low to the water. When flying, little shearwaters hold their wings at right angles to the body, resembling an ‘x’ shape. 

References: eBird | DCCEEW | Animalia | Birds of the World

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