Interesting shearwater

17 12 2012

“I believe in a long, prolonged, derangement of the senses in order to obtain the unknown.”

– Jim Morrison

A new project has born in the Canary Islands! I am talking about Cetavist, a net of observers on board the ferries between islands. The project is carried by the University of la Laguna and its main purpose is to describe the distribution of both cetaceans and seabirds within the Canary Island archipelago. In the last years, there have been many changes in both the occurrence and abundance of some of the species such as Bryde’s whale and Barolo’s shearwater. To describe that processes, it’s important to be prospecting almost every week, so the project count with the help of volunteers. If anyone is planning a birding trip to the Canaries and wants to try the Barolo’s shearwater (nowadays the hardest bird of Spain!) from the ferries (the best ones are between Tenerife and La Gomera and between Tenerife and El Hierro), please contact me and you would obtain free tickets! The only thing you have to do in exchange is to count birds and cetaceans and take the position of each sighting. The datasheet is very simple… You can check the news about the project (in Spanish, for the moment) in the new blog

The coordinators of the project have been all the last week aboard, evaluating if it was possible to detect animals from the fast ferries of the Fred Olsen company. The results were the expected and we managed to see Bryde’s whale, Short-finned pilot whale, Short-beaked common dolphin, Bottlenose dolphin and Cuvier’s beaked whale. Birds where also present, although they were very scarce. We saw at least 4 Barolo’s shearwaters and 1 Leach’s storm-petrel.

However, the best sighing of the week was that interesting shearwater. It shows a Barolo’s-like structure, maybe a little bit more long-tailed and thick-billed. These features match both Audubon’s and Cape Verde Little shearwater, as well as the coloration. The dark leading edge in the underwing is larger than in Barolo’s, the face is black and the upperwing lacks the pale panel in the GCs.

puffinus sp4

puffinus sp3

puffinus sp2

puffinus sp.

puffinus sp6

puffinus sp5

All these features seem to rule out Barolo’s shearwater and point to the other 2 candidates, which would be both a first for Spain. Of course, comments are welcome!




6 responses

23 01 2013
Bill Bourne

I have seen all the Atlantic shearwaters, and this does not look like any of them (or any shearwater I have seen). Have you forgotten the supposedly recently extinct Manx-type Lava Shearwater Puffinus olsoni from the eastern Canary Islands)? See McMinn et al, Endins 16: 63-71, 1990.

23 01 2013
Marcel Gil Velasco

Hi Bill,
Thank you for your comment. How can you rule out Boyd’s or Audubon’s? I think this option is more probable than an extinct species, although it would be a GREAT new…

24 01 2013
Bill Bourne

Dear Marcel,

The small shearwaters appeared more compact, with less contrast between the dark and white markings (though they are variable). Various other petrels have survived in the Canaries, though the information about them usually seems poor; why not this one? One of the best ways to find elusive petrels seems to be to look for them out at sea, but not much of this seems to have been done in the Canaries yet; it seems to have brought results rapidly. If the birds are still there there is a need to find them and protect them.

Regards, Bill

24 01 2013
Bill Bourne

I should have added, if the Lava Shearwater still exists, Audubon’s and Boyd’s Shearwaters would be rarer birds in the Canaries…


6 03 2013
Peter Stronach

Hi Marcel,

Last minute I know, but I am going to Tenerife 9-16th March and am going to go on the ferries (Tenerife-La Gomera and hopefully Tenerife-El Hierro). Can you send me by email recording forms so I can record what I see, will have a GPS,



7 03 2013
Marcel Gil Velasco

Hi Peter! please, write me at as soon as possible to take your tickets! Thank you!

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