Image Source: Flickr. By: Jofre Ferrer.

This week’s Creature Feature follows a tale of mistaken identity.

The Balearic Shearwater is a critically endangered seabird native to the Balearic Islands: an archipelago near the eastern coast of the Iberian Peninsula (Portugal, Spain, etc.). Until recently, this bird was listed under several wrong classifications, including: a subspecies of the Manx Shearwater, a subspecies of the Mediterranean Shearwater, and finally it was settled as a distinct species from the Yelkouan Shearwater.

Balearic Shearwaters are approximately 14 to 16 inches (35-40 cm) in length and have a wingspan between 33 and 36 inches (85-90 cm). They nest in burrows, though they only visit their nesting site at nighttime to avoid predators. When in flight, it appears as though they change from a dark brown to a dirty white. While at sea, Balearic Shearwaters tend to remain silent and are not apt to follow boats, but bring them ashore to their colonies at night and you’ll have quite the noise to deal with.

Although these birds are typically found in the Mediterranean region, some of them do migrate north to the British Isles and even as far as the Scandinavian Peninsula during the summer months. Food preferred by this bird includes fish and mollusks, and as far as breeding goes, they only lay one egg. Unfortunately, this bird is on a rapid decline and has many threats to contend with. Some of the more severe threats to the Balearic Shearwater include: predators and invasive species, habitat loss and human/tourist development, and pollution and oil spills.

To find out more about the Balearic Shearwater, check out these sites:

BirdLife International
IUCN Red List
Bird Trust for Ornithology
Go Birding
Bird Guides
Project Global

By Heidi Marshall