Short-taileds and Sooties Compared
Short-tailed Shearwater has been in the UK and Irish birding news recently. I have only seen Short-tailed Shearwater once. About 10 minutes after watching a Sooty. Slightly shorter, more rounded wings, slightly more flappy flight and lacking the obvious ‘silver wing-lining’ of Sooty, helped identify it. But the main feature that made for an easy identification. – it was in the Pacific Ocean!
Claiming one in the North Atlantic is obviously a whole other ball-game. Not impossible – but not yet proven to occur. Thanks to his brother Grahame, I received these stunning close-ups of the 2 species taken by Paul Walbridge off Eastern Australia.
Paul is the guy to contact if you want to see Tahiti Petrel - never mind an excellent collection of other ’southern seabirds’. He runs pelagics out of Southport, (nr. Brisbane) Queensland. e.g. http://birding-aus.org/?p=1697 .
Further details also at www.sossa-international.org
This one has slightly longer primary projection than the Short-tailed Shearwater below and more uniformly dark plumage – though I have seen Sooty Shearwater with darker velvety brown head and neck giving a slight ‘hooded effect’.
It has the same Latin ‘name’ as the Slender-billed Curlew - ‘tenuirostris’ – which is why it’s also called Slender-billed Shearwater! Plumage features: This one clearly shows the characteristic darker half-hood over crown and nape and greyish-white throat and breast. Also the primary projection is a little shorter.
No point making a fuss about a Sooty with projecting feet- these feet are sticking out further than on the Short-tailed Shearwater below.
It does look a little shorter -billed and especially more compact bodied than typical Sooty – doesn’t it. The white-looking line of secondaries on the far wing is an artefact of light reflecting off the inner webs - commonly seen in photos showing the far wing of certain seabirds- in the right light conditions !
Check out those sticky-out feet! The underwing has almost all white greater under primary coverts (outer part of the wing) and alternating dark/light ‘chocolate ripple’ rows on the secondary coverts - both not found on Short-tailed Shearwaters - only usable at very close range.
Shows bit of a darker half hood contrasting with pale throat. Shorter, more rounded wings and more compact-looking body. On this one the greater under primary coverts pale brownish. Some Short-taileds can have an underwing pattern that is much closer in appearance to that of Sooty. I also wonder about lone, close range dark-end Balearic Shearwaters being a pitfall for this species in the North Atlantic.
Even the guys who see these regularly say they remain an identification challenge. There is a thorough summary of the characters - in Derek Onley and Paul Scofield’s Albatrosses, Petrels and Shearwaters of the World.