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Seabird Picture of the Month, February 2002:

Streaked Shearwater

Photo by Koji Ono

Streaked Shearwater - photo by Koji Ono

The Streaked Shearwater (Calonectris leucomelas) breeds in immense numbers on islands of southern Japan (Izu, Ryuku, Daito and Senkuku Groups) which forms the center of its breeding distribution. Also found on islands off the coasts of Korea and China. Estimates for the Izu Islands are in the order of 3-4 million birds. It is often the most abundant seabird to be observed at sea around Japan. This shearwater is regarded as sacred in Japan and is protected by law. The livelihood of residents and fishermen on many of Japan's islands have depended on it for hundreds of years; whether killing them for food, or following them out to sea where they lead the fishermen to schools of fish. Some mortality occurs when birds are trapped in trawl or gill-nets, and from oil pollution. Significant weather-related wrecks (large scale die-offs) occur occasionally on the mainland.

Although graceful and swift at sea, they appear awkward on land. Returning to colonies at night, they land by falling through the trees to the ground where they nest in burrows and crevices. They often hurl themselves into the air from treetops in order to get airborne again. Streaked Shearwaters resemble Cory’s Shearwater in size and coloration, but they are less heavy with a thinner bill. The whitish head contrasts with dark brownish streaking on the crown and nape. After breeding, birds migrate to tropical waters of the east and southern China Seas, Philippines, Indonesia and Indian Ocean. Adults leave prior to young. Many reach Papua New Guinea and the Coral Sea, some getting as far south as Sydney, Australia or Sri Lanka.

Photo by Koji Ono, taken on Biro Island, off Kyushu Island.

Dr. Koji Ono is a seabird researcher in Japan, and an ardent wildlife photographer. More information on Japanese seabirds can be found at the website for the Japan Alcid Society (English version) (Japanese version).


To learn more about other seabirds, browse the Seabird Flash Cards on the Seabird Page of this website.

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