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Bird Sightings : Hebrides : Manx Shearwater

Hebrides bird sightings -  Manx Shearwater

Manx Shearwater

(Manxie, Cockersudie, Cockersootie, Puffin, Puffing, Lyre, Lyrie, Liri)

Puffinus puffinus

Photography © Mark Hows
Uist to Skye Ferry - Outer Hebrides (Western Isles)
10th June, 2007

"...a tour of the harbour and to see white tailed eagles. The weather was misty but we quickly found the female white tailed eagle but it would not come down to the boat. We quickly added 4 auk species shag, cormorant and Gannets in the Harbour most unusual this close in, then came 4 manx shearwaters followed by a large flock of at least 50 including two balearic shearwaters not a bad trip, so we headed home. ..."



  • Manx Shearwater (Manxie, Cockersudie, Cockersootie, Puffin, Puffing, Lyre, Lyrie, Liri)
  • Puffinus puffinus
  • UK: AMBER LIST, 295 thousand pairs (Summer) BTO
  • UK: Migrant Breeder
  • WI: Common migrant breeder (1000 -10,000 pairs) and abundant passage visitor (occurs in large numbers)
  • Breeds: Colonies on rat-free North Atlantic islands. Burrows & coastal cliffs. Just one white egg - only visited at night-time so avoiding large gull predation. Leaves breeding site in July, migrates to South American coast for winter, returns late February and March.
  • Diet: From surface or diving: Mostly fish, (especially) herrings, sardines and sprats, small crustaceans, offal
  • Small shearwater, (30-38cm long). Long, straight, slender wings. Black upperparts. White underparts.
  • Bird most often seen in flight from West coast sea-watching points on spring and autumn migration. Cross-shaped. Very low-flying (wingtips almost touch sea). Wings stiff, few beats, bird changes colour - black to white as alternately the upper and below parts are exposed as it dips from one side to the other, shearing/banking over the sea.
  • Lives mostly at sea out of breeding season (Pelagic). Forms life-long monogamous pair-bonds.
  • Average lifespan 5yrs, Max recorded 40yr 10mths (longest living bird in UK). One bird said to have lived 55 years!
  • Listen to a Manx Shearwater (RSPB site). It is said that the Vikings, on hearing the call of the Manxie on the Isle of Isle of Rum were terrified that the locals were trolls!
  • Similar birds: Sooty Shearwater (Also Cory's Shearwater, Great Shearwater, Balearic Shearwater but they are rare)


Although the Manx Shearwater's Latin name is Puffinus puffinus, it is not related to the Puffin we know. Puffin is an old word which means fatling and refers either to the bird's pot-bellied appearance or the fact young Manx shearwaters (along with Puffins) were collected and eaten.

Both Puffin and Manx Shearwater live in burrows and as such are vulnerable to predation by rats.

The Manx part of the bird's name, means from the Isle of Man. Once a large colony of Shearwaters existed on the Calf of Man, a small Island near the Isle of Man. Rats were accidentally introduced to the island and they entered the Shearwaters' burrows and ate their eggs. The Shearwater numbers dropped drastically. In recent times the rats have been removed from the island and the Manx Shearwater numbers are increasing.

The Balearic Shearwater (Puffinus mauretanicus) was long regarded a subspecies of the Manx Shearwater. It is now recognised as a distinct species. It has less contrasting plumage, so it's colour change is from dark-brown to dirty white as it's upper and below parts are alternately exposed in it's flight across the sea.

A Manx Shearwater's bill.



Manx Shearwater records in the Western Isles

Common migrant breeder (1000 -10,000 pairs) and abundant passage visitor (occurs in large numbers)
Breeds on St Kilda

On the chart below the darker the shade of blue the more abundant the Manx Shearwater is during a month or the more likely you are to see it.

























(Source: Outer Hebrides Birds Checklist)


Mark How's birding blog

Other local bird photographs

Sources of information for the bird sightings section

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