Great Shearwater

Ardenna gravis (O'Reilly, 1818) GQ GRTSH 400
Family: Procellariiformes > Procellariidae

Great Shearwater, Brendan Doe

This large, dark-capped, white-rumped, shearwater is seen in offshore waters during the summer and early autumn.

Great Shearwaters breed on a handful of islands in the South Atlantic and leave their breeding sites from March or early April, undertaking a huge flight that will see them complete a clockwise loop around the Atlantic, before heading back to their breeding islands.

These birds typically arrive in British and Irish waters during August, as can be seen in the BirdTrack reporting rate graph. Many individuals head to the Bay of Biscay, where large numbers can congregate through to October. These are thought to be non-breeding birds because breeding has already commenced in the South Atlantic colonies by October.

Select a topic for more facts and statistics about the Great Shearwater

  • Breeding
  • Winter


Great Shearwater identification is sometimes difficult.


Listen to example recordings of the main vocalisations of Great Shearwater, provided by xeno-canto contributors.


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Status and Trends

Population size and trends and patterns of distribution based on BTO surveys and atlases with data collected by BTO volunteers.


This species can be found on the following statutory and conservation listings and schedules.


We have no population estimates for this scarce species.


Great Shearwaters are recorded mostly from the coastline of southwest England but there are annual records from selected sites along the North Sea coast.

Occupied 10-km squares in UK


This vagrant is too rarely reported to map distribution change.


Great Shearwater is a scarce passage seabird recorded at selected seawatching locations, mostly from mid June to September.

Weekly occurence of Great Shearwater from BirdTrack
Weekly occurrence patterns (shaded cells) and reporting rates (vertical bars) based on BirdTrack data. Reporting rates give the likelihood of encountering the species each week.


Information about movement and migration based on online bird portals (e.g. BirdTrack), Ringing schemes and tracking studies.


View a summary of recoveries in the Online Ringing Report.


Lifecycle and body size information about Great Shearwater, including statistics on nesting, eggs and lifespan based on BTO ringing and nest recording data.



For information in another language (where available) click on a linked name

Gaelic: Fachach-mòr
Welsh: Aderyn Drycin Mawr
Catalan: baldriga capnegra
Czech: burnák velký
Danish: Storskråpe
Dutch: Grote Pijlstormvogel
Estonian: mustkõht-tormilind
Finnish: isoliitäjä
French: Puffin majeur
German: Großer Sturmtaucher
Hungarian: nagy vészmadár
Icelandic: Hettuskrofa
Irish: Cánóg Mhór
Italian: Berta dell'Atlantico
Latvian: lielais vetrasputns
Lithuanian: didžioji audronaša
Norwegian: Storlire
Polish: burzyk wielki
Portuguese: pardela-de-barrete
Slovak: víchrovník atlantický
Slovenian: veliki viharnik
Spanish: Pardela capirotada
Swedish: större lira

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