Audubon’s Shearwater

Photo credit- Glen TepkeAudubon’s Shearwater (Puffinus lherminieri) is a medium-sized, black-brown and white seabird that visits our islands on its migration route. It is known locally as “Wedrego” because its call sounds like the bird is saying “Where’d we go”. Audubon’s Shearwaters spend most of their life at sea, gliding over the water. They feed on small fish, crustaceans and squid, which they catch by plunge-diving to depths of about two meters. Their long, slender and slightly hooked bill enables them to catch and hold prey.

Unlike other shearwaters, Audubon’s Shearwaters do not follow ships in search of food, though they are known to come close to small fishing boats. They do, however, fish in large groups. Saba holds a special place for Audubon’s Shearwaters. According to Birdlife International, Saba is home to one of the region’s most important breeding colonies, with a globally significant population of about 1,000 birds. Not surprisingly, Audubon’s Shearwater is the national bird of Saba and has a prominent place on the island’s coat of arms.

Birds are known to visit the island between December and May, during which they nest in the holes and crevices of the island’s high cliffs. St. Maarten’s offshore islands, notably Pelican Rock and Molly B’Day, are also believed to be important nesting sites for Audubon’s Shearwaters. The birds have been recorded on Statia, but no breeding has so far been confirmed.

There have been recent concerns on Saba about the health of the Audubon’s Shearwaters’ population. Predation by introduced feral cats and rats as well as goat trampling are putting at risk important nesting sites. Other concerns include habitat loss and disturbance, as well as overfishing of the birds’ main source of food.

The Saba Conservation Foundation is now closely monitoring the population of Audubon’s Shearwaters, and DCNA is drafting a species management plan to ensure that Saba’s population of this seabird is adequately protected. The Audubon’s Shearwater is also listed in Annex II of SPAW, meaning that its taking, possession, killing, trade and disturbance is prohibited.