Descent of the tubenoses! (Volume 1)

14 06 2011

Sooty shearwater portrait. (photo by Carolyn Moore)

Some interesting finds coming into the SEANET database lately: a sampler platter of tubenoses–the group that includes shearwaters and petrels and the like. Carolyn Moore, who walks on Fire Island in New York  found two sooty shearwaters over the last couple weeks. Most years, we get one or two of this species in May and June when they are traveling along the North American coast to productive North Atlantic waters.

Sooty shearwaters can be distinguished from other shearwater species by the all-over chocolate brown color of the plumage, including the breast and belly. Greater shearwaters, which are also found by Seanetters with some frequency in the summer months, have a white belly with a grayish smudge. Sooty shearwaters are incredible long-distance migrants found the world over. A tracking project at UC Santa Cruz in 2006 following sooties in the Pacific show that the birds appear to chase an “endless summer,” flying nearly pole to pole over the course of the year in search of feeding grounds. Breeding in the southern hemisphere in the austral summer (our winter), they then appear to make a beeline to the northern oceans seeking one of several prey hotspots near the Arctic circle. Individual birds appear to be loyal to one such hotspot, and do not appear to travel a great deal once they reach their chosen northern feeding ground until it’s time to head south again for breeding.

Tracking study of sooty shearwaters: blue lines track movements during breeding season, yellow is northward migration, orange is non-breeding foraging season and finally southward return to breeding grounds.

There was a mysterious detail on the sooty that Carolyn found on June 6th: a thin green band on one leg. No metal, federal band was present on the other leg, and no discernible markings were present on the green band. Your SEANET blogger will do a bit of sleuthing into potential origins for this charming anklet, and should I turn up any information, you will most certainly read about it here.

The other notable tubenoses to report turned up in New York and New Jersey. But as I wish to keep you riveted, dear readers, I will reserve the remaining tubenose news for a post later this week.

A green band on the leg of a sooty shearwater; what's this all about? (photo by Carolyn Moore)



One response

16 06 2011
Mary Wright

What’s the green band made of? Metal, plastic, seaweed . . . ?

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