Sooty Shearwater
(Ardenna grisea)


Picture of bird
© Don Loarie - License
For additional photos and vocalizations, visit Dendroica. (Link opens in a new window.)

Sooty Shearwaters nest in New Zealand, Australia, southern Chile and the Falkland Islands/Islas Malvinas. Their marine distribution encompasses most of the major oceans. Sooty Shearwaters occur as far north in the Pacific Ocean as the northern Gulf of Alaska and along the Aleutian chain to the Kamchatka Peninsula and Japan, and throughout the Atlantic Ocean to southeast Baffin Island (Howell 2012). During the non-breeding season, populations from New Zealand and Australia largely migrate to the North Pacific, while birds breeding in the Falkland Islands overwinter in the North Atlantic, residing largely over the eastern Canadian Grand Bank during the northern summer (Hedd et al. 2012). Despite being an extremely abundant species worldwide, there are significant and persistent signs of global decrease. However, spatially and temporally patchy survey data in both the Canadian Pacific and Atlantic mean that local changes to population status relative to about 1970 are difficult to determine. This species has been identified as a priority for conservation and/or stewardship in one or more Bird Conservation Region Strategies in Canada.


Main designations for the species
DesignationStatusDateSubspecies, population
IUCN (Global)Near threatened2018 
Wild Species (Canada)Secure2015 
Bird Conservation Region StrategyPriority Species2013 

Population status

Geographic area or populationPopulation change relative to ~1970ReliabilityStatus in relation to goal
CanadaData DeficientData DeficientData Deficient

Population estimate

Geographic area or populationPopulation estimate
Canada> 1,000,000 birds occurring seasonally

Distribution maps


Migration strategy, occurrence

Seasonal visitor

Responsibility for conservation

Geographic areaResponsibility based on % of global population

Conservation and management

Over at least the past two decades, there has been a marked decrease in the number of Sooty Shearwaters off the west coast of North America. This may be due to a shift in their marine distribution in the eastern North Pacific, possibly as a response to climatic change and/or changes in prey distribution and availability (Veit et al. 1996, Spear and Ainley 1999, Hyrenbach and Veit 2003). Alternatively, the reduced number may reflect a dramatic decline in the global population of Sooty Shearwaters. Potential causes for that decline include the annual harvest of ~360,000 chicks from New Zealand breeding colonies (Newman et al. 2009), range-wide bycatch in commercial fisheries (e.g., Taylor 2000, Uhlmann et al. 2005, Hedd et al. 2015), and/or predation of eggs and chicks by introduced rats (Jones et al. 2008). However, the relative influence of these factors on the global population status is unclear (Brooke 2004).


Bird conservation region strategies

Environment and Climate Change Canada and partners have developed Bird Conservation Region Strategies in each of Canada’s Bird Conservation Regions (BCRs). In these strategies, selected species are identified as priorities for one or more of the following reasons:

  • conservation concerns (i.e., species vulnerable due to population size, distribution, population trend, abundance, or threats)
  • stewardship responsibilities (i.e., species that typify the regional avifauna or have a large proportion of their range or population in the sub-region)
  • management concerns (i.e., species that require ongoing management because of their socio-economic importance as game species, or because of their impacts on other species or habitats)
  • other concerns (i.e., species deemed a priority by regional experts for other reasons than those listed above or because they are listed as species at risk or concern at the provincial level)

Select any of the sub-regions below to view the BCR strategy for additional details.

BCRs, marine biogeographic units, and sub-regions in which the species is listed as a priority
RegionSub-region and priority type
Gulf of St. LawrenceGulf of St. Lawrence, sub-region and priority type: Atlantic, NL -- Other
Gulf of St. LawrenceGulf of St. Lawrence, sub-region and priority type: Atlantic, NS -- Other
Newfoundland and Labrador Shelves Newfoundland and Labrador Shelves , sub-region and priority type: Atlantic, NL -- Other
Scotian ShelfScotian Shelf, sub-region and priority type: Atlantic, NB -- Other
Scotian ShelfScotian Shelf, sub-region and priority type: Atlantic, NS -- Other