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Bryan's Shearwater (1 Viewer)

Richard Klim

Pyle, Welch & Fleischer 2011. A new species of shearwater (Puffinus) recorded from Midway Atoll, northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Condor: in press. abstract

Puffinus bryani.

Larry Sweetland

Formerly 'Larry Wheatland'
Love the name, and envy the first person required to call it on a seawatch. Dave's Shearwater would top it though.

Richard Klim


Seabird News, 18 Jun 2011:
New species - Bryan's Shearwater - summary

I have now received from Peter Pyle a draft of the paper. The manuscript is not yet finalised for publication in Condor in August, and so the final copy will not be ready for a month or two. Peter asks for patience, especially from colleagues seeking pdf’s. He has agreed that the summary below - my slant on reading the paper - can be posted:

This is a very small shearwater (if they were still grouped as Little Shearwater this bird could have been named the ‘Very Little Shearwater’). Consider, the wing measurement is 174 (and this a male… females of small Puffinus shearwaters are smaller) and compare this to a Manx Shearwater at 236 (mean). Those that have seen Macaronesian Shearwater would say that species is small, but this new species is smaller again. The morphometric data in the paper shows this new species is indeed smaller than any other known Puffinus taxon (and remember it is a male when comparing smaller females of other taxa).

The bird was collected in a burrow within a Bonin Petrel colony on Midway Island in 1963 so we must assume it was exploring the island (from breeding localities elsewhere in the Pacific?) though note that Hawaii has had a number of odd seabird records in the past, including birds from other oceans (for example, Jouanin’s Petrel).

The plumage is typical of Puffinus, showing slaty black upperparts, largely white underparts with dark feathering extending to the sides of breast and lower flanks. The undertail coverts and inner webs to the under primaries largely blackish, more typical of the Audubon's group, whereas the lores, auriculars, and supercilial region are white, more typical of the Little Shearwater group. The legs were blue, typical of the Little Shearwater group. ‘Typical’ being the operative word though, as we know now that the colour of undertail coverts in small shearwater can vary extensively within populations, that back colour can change with moult and age, and leg colour may vary from blue to pink or pale according to individuals (at least in Audubon’s and Tropical Shearwater anyway).

The new species is separable from other members of the genus by the combination of small size, proportionally long tail, dark undertail coverts and under primaries, and bluish colouration to legs.

The paper does not help with identification at sea. For example, (re my earlier question on Seabird-News), for Tropical and Bannerman’s Shearwaters the differences are only recorded as ‘much smaller size’ (remember male:female again) ‘and bluish leg colour’ (see above). Nothing more.

The bird showed a relatively large sequence divergence indicating its distinctness from all other taxa included in the study. It is closest in biometrics and appearance (but not genetics) to Atlantic boydi.

The bird has been named in honour of Edwin Horace Bryan, Jr., a participant in the Whitney South Seas Expedition in 1920-1923 and the Tanager Expedition to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands in 1923-1924; Curator of Collections at the Bishop Museum, Honolulu, in 1919-1968; and author of many publications on Hawaiian insects and birds in 1926-1958.

Tony Pym
[With thanks to Peter Pyle and Tony Pym.]

Steve Lister

Senior Birder, ex County Recorder, Garden Moths.
United Kingdom
So I don't think anyone will be calling one in a seawatch for a while then Larry.


Richard Klim

Puffinus sp, California 2003

Any connection with this 2003 record by Peter Pyle...?
  • Pyle 2003. Little Shearwater (Puffinus assimilis): Description by Peter Pyle - 29 October 2003 - 3.1 nautical miles west of Point Joe, Monterey County, California. Shearwater Journeys. [description]

  • San Miguel & McGrath 2005. Report of the California Bird Records Committee: 2003 records. Western Birds 36(2): 78-113. [pdf] (p86-87)

  • Heindel & Garrett 2008. The 32nd Report of the California Bird Records Committee: 2006 records. Western Birds 39(3): 121-152. [pdf] (p145)
    Several committee members (and Howell) emphasized that this sighting could involve an undescribed taxon; the last chapter on the record may yet be written.
[With thanks to 'W. Ruskin Butterfield';), & Alex Lees for posting on Surfbirds.]
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Daniel Philippe

Well-known member
I'm a bit confused with their tree (Bayesian 50% majority rule consensus). Not only the sequence seems new, but they've kept species such as atrodorsalis (not a juv bailloni ?) and dichrous (not included in polynesiae ?).

Richard Klim

Puffinus sp, Midway Atoll 1991/2

On Ian Paulsen's blog, The Birdbooker Report, the photograph used in the Smithsonian press release is captioned 'Probable Bryan's Shearwater, Midway Atoll, December 1991'.

This is presumably the individual mentioned in Pyle et al 2011:
A similar shearwater, likely of this species, was observed in a burrow at Midway Atoll during the winter of 1991–1992 (Pyle and Pyle 2009), suggesting the species' survival into at least the 1990s.
[Again, detective work courtesy of good ol' Ruskin ;), Surfbirds.]

PS. Also on the Bishop Museum website.
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Well-known member
Puffinus Lherminieri dichrous Finsch and Hartlaub
Puffinus dichrous Finsch and Hartlaub, 1867, 'Faun. Centr. Polyn.,' p. 244
(McKean Island, Phoenix Group).
?Puffinus opisthomelas var. minor Hartlaub, 1867, Proc. Zool. Soc. Lond. (Pelew
SUBSPECIFIC CHARACTERS.-Similar to Puffinus Iherminieri polynesia, but with a
shorter bill (shortest of the species).
TYPE.-Sex undetermined, McKean Island, in the Zoological Museum of Berlin.
RANGE.-Western equatorial Pacific, from the Phoenix to the Pelew Groups.
MEASUREMENTS (17 e and 9, including the type, from McKean, Canton, and
Enderbury Islands; Phoenix Group, and from Ponap6, Nauru, "Carolines," and
"Pelews." 56 adults measured for length of culmen).-Wing, 188-209 (202); tail,
73-84 (80.2); exposed culmen, 22.6-27 (26); depth of closed bill at base, 8.5-9.2;
least depth of bill, 5.5-6; width of bill at base, 9-11.2; tarsus, 36-40 (38.2); middle
toe with claw, 39-43 (40.8) mm.

The names dichrous and minor were published during the same year, 1867, and it is uncertain which has priority. The fact that Puffinus dichrous was accompanied by a detailed description, while minor is not even certainly applicable to a shearwater of this type, should, however, leave no doubt regarding the superior claims of the former name.
Through the courtesy of Dr. Irwin Stresemann, the writer has had an opportunity of examining the type, together with other specimens in the Berlin Museum from Nauru and the Pelews. These, as well as American Museum skins from the Caroline Islands, all seem to be identical with birds of a large series collected by Mr. J. G. Correia of the
Whitney South Sea Expedition, at Canton and Enderbury Islands, Phoenix Group, on March 11 and 19, respectively, 1924. The latter were adults on their breeding grounds, with gonads in various stages of enlargement. Many were molting the quills of wing and tail. The colors of fleshy parts in life were as in other members of Iherminieri. Except for the remarkably short bill, the specimens resemble P. 1. polynesiae, although the dark plumage on the sides of the pectoral region in dichrous seems to be more broken on the average, scattered feathers sometimes mottling the breast almost to the mid-line.
(Murphy 1927)
http://digitallibrary.amnh.org/dspa...ace/ingest/pdfSource/nov/N0276.pdf?sequence=1 .

Ross Silcock webpages:
Pacific Ocean taxondichrous (polynesiae was considered weakly differentiated from dichrous). Austin et al (2004) did not treat the taxa gunax, bannermani, or heinrothi; gunax is treated as a subspecies of dichrous here. The taxon subalaris is considered a full species, Galapagos Shearwater (see above).
Of interest are comments by Scofield made prior to publication of Austin et al (2004; pers. comm. Angus Wilson); Scofield said "One could argue that what we have here are a subantarctic species, the true Little (as exemplified by elegans) and a true Audubon's (as exemplified by lherminieri) that have a lot of intermediate "hybrid" populations. I suspect that DNA work will make many of the more northern Little Shearwaters into blue-footed Audubon's."
P. b. dichrous (incl polynesiae Baker 1951; dichrous has recently been referred to as "Atoll Shearwater", implying specific status, Howell)

Unless the old specific name, obscuras of Gmelin, is revived, the name for the entire group in Micronesia and Polynesia would be P. I. dichrous. (Baker 1951)

On a Collection of Birds from some less-known Localities
in the Western Pacific. By Dr. G. Hartlaub.

The collectors of Mr. Johann Caesar Godeffroy of Hamburg have
of late touched at some localities not before explored by scientific
expeditions. These localities are the Pelew or Palaos group
(Western Caroline Islands), the Matelotas with the Island of Yap,
the more northern Mackenzie Islands, and the Echiquier or Bou
gainville group near the northern coast of New Guinea. The col
lection contains twenty-three species, four of which are very pro-
bably new, and will pro\ e an interesting addition to our knowledge
of oceanic ornithology.

23. PuFFiNUs opisthomelas, Coues.

Four specimens from the Pelew Islands. " Kokeio" incol.

Var. minor : subcaudalibus totis niyro-fnliginosis.

The type of Coues's description from Cape St. Lucas is a some-
what larger bird ; but, there being no other difference between it
and our Pelew bird, I prefer considering this latter a smaller race.
The dimensions of our specimens are: — Long, tota Il-IH", rectr.
12-121"', alse 3" 4-7"', tars. 17".

Daniel Philippe

Well-known member

Many thanks for the investigation Mark,

I went back to my archives/doc/books again, but could not find anything. I will give up with this one and revert to dichrous.

Richard Klim

'Bonin Little Shearwater'

Chikara 2011. Little-known Asian bird: Possible records of the newly described Bryan's Shearwater Puffinus bryani in Japan. BirdingASIA 16: 86-88.

Suggests that 'Bonin Little Shearwater' (a Little Shearwater 'of uncertain subspecies', collected from Bonin Island in Apr 1997 and Jan 2005, and recorded a few times from the ferry operating between Bonin and Tokyo) is quite likely to be Bryan's Shearwater.

PS. Pyle et al 2011. [pdf]

PPS. I'm confused. Does this mean that 'Bonin Little Shearwater' (= bryani?) and the "very different" Bannerman's Shearwater (bannermani) both occur (breed?) in the Ogasawara Islands...???
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PPS. I'm confused. Does this mean that 'Bonin Little Shearwater' (= bryani?) and the "very different" Bannerman's Shearwater (bannermani) both occur (breed?) in the Ogasawara Islands...???

Hi Richard

Well, it means they both occur around the Bonin (= Ogasawara) Islands. Were the two Audubon’s (= Bryan’s here), that were collected in the Bonins, breeding birds? Were they simply prospecting (as assumed with the Midway birds)? It is known that bannermani breeds in the Bonin and Volcano Islands but we do not know for certain where bryani breeds.

It is clear that bannermani and bryani are not the same taxon. Bannerman’s Shearwater is different on plumage and measurements and, as you know, is usually treated as a distinct species but the Pyle et al paper is unclear on some issues regarding Bryan’s. For example, the announcing of the species is based on size (measurements = the specimen is very small, and was a male, females are smaller), blue legs (though this doesn’t carry much weight with small shearwaters) and genetics (though not all Pacific small shearwaters were sampled). Also, after reading the paper, I am still uncertain how Bryan’s can be identified at sea – an example; although the comparison species is boydi the paper does not record underwing pattern for bryani.

The entire ‘Audubon’s’ Shearwater taxonomy is a minefield, many questions unanswered, in many regions with many forms, not least through the Pacific where field observers regularly comment on visible differences between populations of small shearwaters, so Bryan’s may yet turn out to be one of the Tropical Shearwater group, possibly a race, even if newly described. Never-the-less, the Bonin Islands does have at least two small shearwaters, and maybe more, in close waters and, we can say, at least two forms/species may breed there.

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