Birds of North Carolina:
their Distribution and Abundance
Cory's Shearwater - Calonectris diomedea
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General Comments The Cory's Shearwater is the largest of the shearwaters in North Carolina waters and is one of the most commonly seen species for much of the year on pelagic trips to the Gulf Stream. Numbers tend not to exaggerate as much from trip to trip as most other species, and it is practically never missed on such a trip in the warmer months. In addition, as with our other shearwaters, it can at times be seen from shore, especially from Cape Hatteras Point in late spring immediately after strong easterly winds, or at times right after a hurricane. Though it is typically associated with the warm Gulf Stream waters, small number do range into cooler inshore waters, but only during the warmer months.

The "Scopoli's" subspecies of Cory's Shearwater (Calonectris d. diomedea), which is actually the nominate subspecies, has been recorded in North Carolina waters in addition to the common "Northern" Cory's (C. d. borealis).

Breeding Status Nonbreeder
NC BRC List Definitive
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Coastal Plain Offshore visitor, mainly to the Gulf Stream. Common and easily seen on most pelagic trips off Oregon and Hatteras inlets, from early May into Nov; less often seen elsewhere offshore, as the Gulf Stream is farther from shore and less time can be spent there on a given one-day trip. No midwinter records, but one was noted 8 Mar 1979 off Oregon Inlet. From shore, normally rare, but there are a few huge counts for Cape Hatteras Point: 8,850, on 28 Oct 1974; 3,600, on 31 May 1970; 1,400 on 1 Jun 1970; and 479, on 28 May 1993. Peak counts offshore: 6,219, off Hatteras Inlet, 7 Aug 1999; 3,000, off Oregon Inlet, 12 Aug 1995. Casual inland, during and after hurricanes: 1-2, Lake Waccamaw, 13-15 Sep 1984 (after Hurricane Diana); 2, Neuse River at New Bern, 27 Aug 1998 (after Hurricane Bonnie); 1, Neuse River at New Bern, 16 Sep 1999 (after Hurricane Floyd); and 1, Buckhorn Reservoir, Wilson, 1 Sep 2006 (after Tropical Storm Ernesto).

For documentation purposes, the NC BRC voted on and accepted several photos of the Scopoli's subspecies [Chat 79:13 link]. Thus, if the AOU splits the Cory's into two species, the Scopoli's taxon will automatically be added to the Definitive List. The Scopoli's is much less numerous than the Northern, based on photos and text in Howell (2012). He states "Uncommon to rare nonbreeding visitor (mainly May-Oct) to warmer waters from Florida n to New England, and in Gulf of Mexico off Texas. Likely occurs throughout North American range of Cory's Shearwater, which is much more numerous. Off North Carolina in May-Jun, no more than 5-10% of Calonectris shearwarers appear to be Scopoli's, but in Aug perhaps as many as 10-15% may be Scopoli's (pers. obs.)" (Howell, 2012, p. 113).

Piedmont No records.
Mountains No records.
Finding Tips This species is a gimme on pelagic trips that reach the Gulf Stream off the Outer Banks from late May into Oct. Numbers in the low hundreds are often seen, and it or Wilson's Storm-Petrel are generally the two most often seen birds in the Gulf Stream. You can often find a few Cory's if you take a headboat out of Morehead City or Wrightsville Beach, but this species is not even guaranteed on such trips.
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Attribution LeGrand[2015-06-13], LeGrand[2012-01-03], LeGrand[2011-11-25]
NC Map
Map depicts all counties with a report (transient or resident) for the species.
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NA Maps
(source NatureServe)

View NatureServe distribution maps for Calonectris diomedea