Great Shearwater Puffinus gravis (O'Reilly, 1818)

Order: Procellariiformes Family: Procellariidae Status: Vagrant to Madeira

Great Shearwater Puffinus gravis


Ardenna gravis

Recommended birdwatching sea trips to watch this seabird

This seabird is normally seen during its migration southwards between mid of August and mid September, on the following sea trips:
Zino’s Petrel Pelagic Expedition
Bird, dolphin and whale watching trip

Great Shearwater Field ID Keys

Shape & Size

Large, fairly heavily built shearwater with long and thin bill.

Colour Pattern

This seabird is dark-brown on the upperparts and white on the underparts. Its neck is white contrasting with its distinctive dark cap that looks black at sea. It shows some darkish stains on the underwings.

Great Shearwater Puffinus gravis


Puffinus gravis has a strong flight with quick beats with wings held stiffly and not bowed.


Great shearwaters are pelagic birds and non breeding visitors from South Atlantic, spending most of the northern summer mainly in the NW Atlantic (Beaman & Madge, 2011)

Great Shearwater Puffinus gravis

Distinction from similar species

When seen flying far it might seem like Cory’s shearwater though at close range its distinct dark cap and white nape are good features to distinguish Great shearwater from Cory’s.

Puffinus gravis Biometrics

Wingspan: 108 - 116 cm (Howell, 2012)
Total length: 45 - 49 cm (Howell, 2012)

Other Bird Facts

Seasonality in Madeira: In Madeira it is usually observed in August and September
Breeding: Returns to its colonies (in South Atlantic) from September onwards, laying the egg by November with juveniles fledging by May (Harrison, 1985)

Great Shearwater Puffinus gravis


Madeira local status by Correia-Fagundes et al, 2021: Seasonal
Madeira local status by Romano et al, 2010: Seasonal vagrant bird
Madeira local status by Zino et al, 1995: Occasional vagrant bird
Conservation status by the IUCN Red List Categories, 2013: Least Concern ver 3.1

Great Shearwater Puffinus gravis

Name of this species in other languages

Portuguese: Pardela-de-barrete, Pardela-de-bico-preto, bobo-grande-de-sobre-branco
German: Großer Sturmtaucher
Dutch: Grote Pijlstormvogel
Swedish: Större lira
Danish: Storskråpe
Finish: Isoliitäjä
Norwegian: Storlire
Spanish: Pardela Capirotada
French: Puffin majeur
Italian: Berta dell'Atlantico
Polish: Burzyk wielki
Slovak: Víchrovník atlantický
Czech: Buřňák velký
English synonyms: Greater Shearwater

Join Madeira Wildlife Monthly Newsletter. All the updates on your email every month.