Possible Newell's Shearwater, Marion Reef, Coral Sea

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Subject: Possible Newell's Shearwater, Marion Reef, Coral Sea
From: Simon Mustoe <>
Date: Sun, 20 Dec 2009 01:52:15 +0000

Just a quick note on the Newell's report from Marion Reef. It seems that we 
made the drew the same conclusion as others in the past, and the moral as 
always, is that the field guides are not complete. The Audubon's complex 
includes a group of nesting islands home to birds collectively called "Tropical 
Shearwater" and the size of the bird we saw seems to fit this group. At the 
moment, it is generally considered as one 'species' though this probably belies 
a more complex genetic make-up. From talking to Mike Carter, who has also seen 
birds in the Coral Sea, Tropical Shearwaters from New Caledonia fit the 
description of the bird we saw and are not dissimilar to Newell's in terms of 
markings. If anything, Newell's is even larger and more Manx Shearwater-like. 
So, we will be looking to submit this under Tropical Shearwater, possibly along 
with Mike's observations. This species is not currently on the Australian list, 
so this is an exciting find and would have made the Lihou trip well worthwhile 
for every birder who came along. Who knows what else there is to discover out 



> Date: Sun, 13 Dec 2009 22:17:55 +1000
> From: 
> To: ; ; 
> CC: 
> Subject: [Birding-Aus] Possible Newell's Shearwater, Marion Reef, Coral Sea
> Hi all,
> Exciting news from Simon Mustoe on the Lihou expedition in the Coral Sea.
> They have found and photographed a possible Newell's Shearwater.  You can
> see some (fairly grainy) photos at
> however I'm sure when they get
> back to port (and aren't transmitting data via satellite phones) that they
> will post better shots.  Below is Simon's description of the bird.  Also, if
> you haven't already checked it out, video #3 from the Lihou expedition is up
> with some great underwater footage at
> Regards,
> Chris
> ----------------------------------
> Hi,
> Just on the east side of Marion Reef yesterday at about 16:30, we
> encountered a medium-sized black and white shearwater flying with about 400
> Wedge-tailed Shearwaters, a dozen Red-footed and Masked Boobies, fifty
> Black-naped Terns and a few Common Noddies. The wind conditions were a fresh
> (15 knot) southeasterly, clear skies and a 1.5m swell. The views were
> obtained from the forecastle at a height of about 6m above sea level. The
> bird in question did not approach close to the vessel. The minimum distance
> was about 100m but it flew alongside for about 2 minutes, then returned for
> a brief and slightly closer pass later. Photos were obtained during the
> first sighting (see below).
> The most immediate noticeable feature was the large amount of white around
> the tail. This was seeable without binoculars, giving the impression of an
> almost white rump, and was much more extensive than in the similar-sized
> Fluttering Shearwater. The black under the eye (see images) would rule out
> Little Shearwater but the size and flight style was not right for the latter
> species, which tends to fap in quick succession, inter-dispersed with glides
> and is tiny compared to Common Noddy (see photo, with species side by side).
> This bird was shearing more in the style of a Fluttering Shearwater and
> flying strongly. Hutton's Shearwater could be ruled out by the combination
> of base colour (black, as opposed to brown); lack of dusky markings under
> the wings; lack og dark undertail coverts and lack of hood.
> The bird had thick dark trailing edges to the underwing and indistinct
> axillary markings (see photo). The photos show no dark undertail coverts and
> the white extending down the centre of the tail, indicative of Newell's
> Shearwater. Although white extending up behind the eye is not apparent, it
> seems to lack any collar, which would be a feature of Townsend's and
> Fluttering Shearwater. Of all these species, Newell's is most likely as it
> breeds in June and would disperse in other months. Fluttering breed in New
> Zealand in October / November and Townsend's at this time of year off
> Mexico.
> More to follow, including BARC submission.
> Simon Mustoe, Nathan Waugh, Dave Stickney, Jim Caine.
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