Birds of North Carolina:
their Distribution and Abundance
Manx Shearwater - Puffinus puffinus
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General Comments Though the Manx Shearwater is not a rare pelagic species in North Carolina waters, it wasn't until the latter part of the 1980's until its status was clarified and determined to be a regularly occurring species. Unlike the other shearwaters in our state, the Manx nests on islets along the coast of Maine and the Canadian Maritimes, and it winters over a broad but still poorly defined area from Virginia south to South America. Yet, despite its occurrence in the latter continent's waters, and its frequent occurrence around Bermuda, in North Carolina it mostly shuns the warm waters of the Gulf Stream, being found typically in the cooler inshore waters and the cooler Labrador Current waters! It can be a difficult to find species on pelagic trips, in part because it is generally absent during the period when most trips are taken -- late May through Sep. Even when found, it is often just a glimpse of a smallish black and white bird arcing over the waves; it usually takes a study of several birds to make sure that the similar but slightly smaller Audubon's Shearwater has been completely ruled out. In winter 2016-17, there was a remarkable and unprecedented inshore flight of the species, with large numbers seen from shore.
Breeding Status Nonbreeder
NC BRC List Definitive
State Status
U.S. Status
State Rank S1N
Global Rank G5
Coastal Plain Offshore visitor. Generally uncommon, from Dec thru Mar, though can be fairly common in Mar; rare to uncommon from Apr through May; rare at other times of the year. For uncertain reasons, large numbers were seen from the Dare shore in Jan-Feb 2017, with many dozens seen at several places. Peak offshore counts: 66, off Hatteras, 9 Mar 2002; 60+, off Hatteras, 18 Mar 2006; 42, off Oregon Inlet, 16 Mar 1984. Very rarely seen from shore, usually in the winter or spring, and mainly from Hatteras Island; peak from shore: a remarkable 217 in a three-hour span, Jennette's Pier (Dare), 29 Jan 2017; 6, Cape Hatteras Point, 28 May 1995. No (inland) records away from the coast.
Piedmont No records.
Mountains No records.
Finding Tips The several winter pelagic trips that are currently taken off Hatteras or Oregon inlets often produce a few Manx Shearwaters, but they are often missed, or only a few people see them well. But, be persistent. A couple are seen in the warmer months, but many, many more trips are taken then. Thus, if you are looking specifically for a Manx, take a winter trip; there are lots of potential goodies to be seen on warm weather trips, though don't expect Manx to be one of them.
Attribution LeGrand[2017-08-23], LeGrand[2013-11-22], LeGrand[2012-01-04]
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 Puffinus puffinus