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Mass die-off of Great Shearwaters in Atlantic

Grant RW Humphries, June 27, 2015

There is increasing evidence of a die-off of Great Shearwaters along the Atlantic Coast of the Bahamas. Most of the information comes from Abaco where there is a long coastline and several active birders. I would be interested in learning if other locations in the Eastern Caribbean and southeastern US are experiencing similar die-offs.The shearwater die-off is a phenomenon that happens every five to ten years. In the Bahamas it last occurred in 2007. According to the late Dave Lee these are young Great Shearwaters migrating from their natal home in the South Atlantic to their feeding grounds off the US and Canada, The combination of poor food supply and wind conditions in the doldrums that make the passage unusually strenuous leads to the birds expending all their energy and expiring. It is a normal event for this species and has been recorded many times. Please notify me, Tony White (, if the is any evidence of a similar die-off in your area.

Relevant papers are: Lee, D.S. 2009. Mass die-offs of Greater Shearwater in the Western North Atlantic: Effects of weather patterns on mortality of a trans-equatorial migrant. Chat 73(2):37;
and Watson, George. 1970. A Shearwater Mortality on the Atlantic Coast. Atlantic Naturalist.25(2);75-80.

Thank you for your attention to this request,
Tony White