fluttering shearwater

According to Oliver, the fluttering shearwater was first collected by J.R. Forster, one of the naturalists of Cook's second voyage, in 1773 in Queen Charlotte Sound, and the publication by Lichtenstein in 1844 of Forster's description was the first introduction of the bird to science, hence it is sometimes called Forster's shearwater.

Reischek, who lived on Little Barrier Island for some months, as recorded by Oliver, says that the fluttering shearwater comes on shore in September to clean out burrows and make fresh ones, which work takes place only in the daytime and is accomplished by digging with bill and throwing out the soil with feet. The eggs are laid in October. Incubation is carried out by both parents, the female sitting during the day and the male at night. When the young are a few days old, both birds absent themselves during the day, returning in the evening to feed them by disgorging into their mouths an oily substance. The young leave the breeding ground during March.

In the Bay of Plenty, according to Oliver, especially at Whale Island, the fluttering shearwater formerly formed one of the food supplies of the Maori, who took the birds and potted them in their own fat. During the early part of the breeding season the island was strictly tapu, no one being allowed to land there. The tapu was of course lifted when the young birds were in good condition for eating.

— Greytown, 2006

Sub Species:

Other common names:  — 

Forster's shearwater.

Description:  — 

Endemic bird

33 cm., 300 g., head and upperparts dark grey-brown, white underparts, like Hutton's sheawater at sea but smaller.

Where to find:  — 

Breed on a number of islands on the northeastern coast of the North Island from Three Kings to islands near Gisborne, and on islands in the Marborough Sounds.

Illustration description: — 


Godman, Frederick du Cane, Monograph of the Petrels, 1907–1910.

Reference(s): — 


Heather, B., & Robertson, H., Field Guide to the Birds of New Zealand, 2000.

Oliver, W.R.B., New Zealand Birds, 1955

Page date & version: — 


Wednesday, 4 June 2014; ver2009v1


©  2006    Narena Olliver,    new zealand birds limited,     Greytown, New Zealand.