Sooty Shearwater

Ardenna grisea (JF Gmelin, 1789) OT SOOSH 430
Family: Procellariiformes > Procellariidae

Sooty Shearwater, Brendan Doe

Although an abundant bird globally, seeing Sooty Shearwaters in Britain and Ireland is a specialist pursuit requiring patient sea-watching in autumn.

Travelling from their breeding grounds in the southern hemisphere, Sooty Shearwaters circumnavigate the Atlantic Ocean flying north along the eastern seaboard of the USA, and returning south past Britain & Ireland, only coming close to shore in autumnal westerly gales.

Individuals can be seen in small numbers anywhere around our coast but the south-western approaches, western Ireland and the Northern Isles are the most likely spots. Stiff, slender wings with silvery undersides and a brown cigar-shaped body distinguish this master of the air and the waves.

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

  • Breeding
  • Winter


Sooty Shearwater identification is sometimes difficult.

Develop your bird ID skills with our training courses

Our interactive online courses are a great way to develop your bird identification skills, whether you're new to the hobby or a competent birder looking to hone your abilities.

Browse training courses

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.


Sooty Shearwaters are regular autumn migrants, recorded from the coast, particularly in southwest England and along the North Sea coast.

Occupied 10-km squares in UK


This vagrant is too rarely reported to map distribution change.


Sooty Shearwater is a regular passage seabird recorded at coastal locations, usually from late summer to late autumn with most passage in August and September.

Weekly occurence of Sooty 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 Sooty 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-dubh
Welsh: Aderyn Drycin Du
Catalan: baldriga grisa
Czech: burnák temný
Danish: Sodfarvet Skråpe
Dutch: Grauwe Pijlstormvogel
Estonian: peegel-tormilind
Finnish: nokiliitäjä
French: Puffin fuligineux
German: Dunkler Sturmtaucher
Hungarian: szürke vészmadár
Icelandic: Gráskrofa
Irish: Cánóg Dhorcha
Italian: Berta grigia
Latvian: tumšais vetrasputns
Lithuanian: pilkoji audronaša
Norwegian: Grålire
Polish: burzyk szary
Portuguese: pardela-escura / pardela-preta
Slovak: víchrovník tmavý
Slovenian: crni viharnik
Spanish: Pardela sombría
Swedish: grålira
Folkname: Muttonbird

Links to more information from

Would you like to search for another species?