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Shearwater sp, Guangdong coast, China (1 Viewer)

MKinHK

Mike Kilburn
Hong Kong
Can anyone help with this shearwater?

In S China the most likely is Short-tailed, which passes HK in May every year, but Sooty is regular off Japan and this bird looks rather long-billed.

Pleas note that the bird was unable to fly, so the position of wings and tail may be confused.

Any thoughts most appreciated.

Cheers
Mike
 

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Dave B

Well-known member
Hi Mike

This is quite a topical post for me as I've been digging into the differences between Short-tailed and Sooty myself recently.

One clue to the identity of your bird should be the state of the body plumage. According to Onley and Scofield, Sooty moults the body plumage in Jan - Mar, whereas in Short-tailed, it's May-July. The shiny feathers on the breast of your bird are, in my view, waterlogged (ie very worn). You can see what this looks like a little more close-up here.

I find apparent bill length quite a variable feature on Short-tailed. Some can look quite long.

Of more help, I've found, is the relative size of the eye. Short-tailed have a relatively large eye, whereas it's much smaller on Sooty. This may seem like a small point, but it creates quite a different facial expression - cute and cuddly for Short-tailed and piggy-eyed and mean for Sooty!

For me, yours is the cute and cuddly variety!

Dave
 
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MKinHK

Mike Kilburn
Hong Kong
Many thanks Dave and Rockfowl.

This bird was in trouble - to the extent that it tried a couple of time to take flight and failed. This could be moult-related or simply that it was sick and sadly likely to end up as a tideline corpse.

Anyway, I've posted some rather better pix from Martin Hale, which I hope will help. It's mostly the long bill that has me thinking beyond Short-tailed (and Sooty in particular), but fully recognize that Short-tailed is variable and also the most likely (up to 30 pass HK in a typical spring), while there is just one record of Sooty from China.

The cute vs mean feature is an interesting one. Not sure any of the pix really show enough, while the long bill for me adds a hint of meanness. I have wondered if there might be something in the length of the bill compared to the length of the nasal tubes, but haven't got too far with this.

Any N. American, Japanese or Australian birders, whom I guess have plenty of experience with both species, have any thoughts?

Cheers
Mike
 

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Dave B

Well-known member
Many thanks Dave and Rockfowl.

This bird was in trouble - to the extent that it tried a couple of time to take flight and failed. This could be moult-related or simply that it was sick and sadly likely to end up as a tideline corpse.

Anyway, I've posted some rather better pix from Martin Hale, which I hope will help. It's mostly the long bill that has me thinking beyond Short-tailed (and Sooty in particular), but fully recognize that Short-tailed is variable and also the most likely (up to 30 pass HK in a typical spring), while there is just one record of Sooty from China.

The cute vs mean feature is an interesting one. Not sure any of the pix really show enough, while the long bill for me adds a hint of meanness. I have wondered if there might be something in the length of the bill compared to the length of the nasal tubes, but haven't got too far with this.

Any N. American, Japanese or Australian birders, whom I guess have plenty of experience with both species, have any thoughts?

Cheers
Mike

Hi Mike

Sorry - I just remembered this post and had to hunt back a few pages to retrieve it!

Now - these new photos look more interesting.

That bill certainly looks too hefty for Short-tailed, and the square head is wrong too. The bird looks too 'milk chocolate' for either Short-tailed or Sooty, and furthermore, I think I can see pale tips to some of the scapulars.

All of this reminds me of Wedge-tailed Shearwater (see this pic.)

Are there records of Wedge-tailed anywhere up there?

Dave
 

MKinHK

Mike Kilburn
Hong Kong
Very interesting Dave!

I have myself been wondering about the head shape and long bill, but have never seen Wedge-tailed Shearwaters anywhere.

However there are records of Wedgies from this part of the Pacific Rim. Please see attached a paper by Richard Lewthwaite which documents all the known shearwater records in China/Taiwan. The key extract reads as follows:

130 Wedge-tailed Shearwater Puffinus pacificus
Only recorded in HK and Taiwan, April, July and September.
Hong Kong: One at Cape d’Aguilar on 6 July 2001 (and possibly one other in southern waters on 28 September 2008).
Taiwan: † Penghu Is dated May 1909; seen/collected in September 1997; 56 bird-days in eastern waters 15-19 April 2002 with peak counts of 31 off Chuankung on 15th and 21 off Lanyu on 17th; 58 seen Tseng-wen Estuary, Tainan on 28 July 2004.

What do others think?

Cheers
Mike
 

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Mark Bruce

Super Moderator
Mike, there've been good numbers of Flesh-footed Shearwater off the central-west Taiwan coast over the past few weeks. While doing cetacean surveys off the east coast in late July 2008 I recorded Streaked, Wedge-tailed, Sooty and Wedge-tailed Shearwaters. The head of the cetacean team had been out at sea almost daily since late April and knows his seabirds very well. He found all these shearwaters pretty common in June-July and had the photos to back it up. The lack of seabird records for Taiwan and the region in general is likely the result of very few surveys rather than lack of birds.
 

Mark Bruce

Super Moderator
Mike, he's abroad for two weeks so will show him the photos when he's back. I'm taking one of his grad students out for some Taiwan endemics tomorrow.
 

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