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Short-tailed Shearwater

Short-tailed Shearwater

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The Short-tailed Shearwater or Slender-billed Shearwater (Puffinus tenuirostris), also called Yolla or Moonbird, and commonly known as the muttonbird
Muttonbird, mutton-bird or mutton bird refer to seabirds – particularly certain large shearwaters – whose young are collected for food and other uses before they fledge ....

 in Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

, is the most abundant seabird
Seabirds are birds that have adapted to life within the marine environment. While seabirds vary greatly in lifestyle, behaviour and physiology, they often exhibit striking convergent evolution, as the same environmental problems and feeding niches have resulted in similar adaptations...

 species in Australian waters, and is one of the few Australian native birds in which the chicks are commercially harvested
Muttonbirding is a seasonal harvesting activity, which may be recreational or commercial, of the chicks of petrels, especially shearwater species, for food, oil and feathers...

. The chicks are caught in nets then put the bird in boiling water for a few seconds. It is a migratory species that breeds mainly on small islands in Bass Strait
Bass Strait
Bass Strait is a sea strait separating Tasmania from the south of the Australian mainland, specifically the state of Victoria.-Extent:The International Hydrographic Organization defines the limits of the Bass Strait as follows:...

 and Tasmania
Tasmania is an Australian island and state. It is south of the continent, separated by Bass Strait. The state includes the island of Tasmania—the 26th largest island in the world—and the surrounding islands. The state has a population of 507,626 , of whom almost half reside in the greater Hobart...

 and migrates to the Northern Hemisphere
Northern Hemisphere
The Northern Hemisphere is the half of a planet that is north of its equator—the word hemisphere literally means “half sphere”. It is also that half of the celestial sphere north of the celestial equator...

 for the boreal summer. In New Zealand
New Zealand
New Zealand is an island country in the south-western Pacific Ocean comprising two main landmasses and numerous smaller islands. The country is situated some east of Australia across the Tasman Sea, and roughly south of the Pacific island nations of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga...

 the Sooty Shearwater
Sooty Shearwater
The Sooty Shearwater is a medium-large shearwater in the seabird family Procellariidae. In New Zealand it is also known by its Māori name tītī and as "muttonbird", like its relatives the Wedge-tailed Shearwater and the Australian Short-tailed Shearwater The Sooty Shearwater (Puffinus griseus) is...

 is the local 'muttonbird', and other harvested petrel species, such as the Wedge-tailed Shearwater
Wedge-tailed Shearwater
The Wedge-tailed Shearwater, Puffinus pacificus is a medium-large shearwater in the seabird family Procellariidae. It is one of the shearwater species that is sometimes referred to as a Muttonbird, like the Sooty Shearwater of New Zealand and the Short-tailed Shearwater of Australia...

, may be known as muttonbirds elsewhere.
This species appears to be related to the New Zealand muttonbird
Sooty Shearwater
The Sooty Shearwater is a medium-large shearwater in the seabird family Procellariidae. In New Zealand it is also known by its Māori name tītī and as "muttonbird", like its relatives the Wedge-tailed Shearwater and the Australian Short-tailed Shearwater The Sooty Shearwater (Puffinus griseus) is...

 and the Great Shearwater
Great Shearwater
The Great Shearwater is a large shearwater in the seabird family Procellariidae. Its relationships are unclear. It belongs in the group of large species that could be separated as genus Ardenna ; within these, it might be allied with the other black-billed, blunt-tailed species Short-tailed...

, all blunt-tailed, black-billed species, but its precise relationships are obscure (Austin, 1996; Austin et al., 2004). These are among the larger species of shearwater which might belong into a separate genus, Ardenna (Penhallurick & Wink, 2004).

Each parent feeds the single chick for 2–3 days and then leaves for up to three weeks in search of food. These foraging trips can cover a distance of 1,500 km (930 mi) and mean the chick may be left unattended for over a week. When the chicks fledge they weigh around 900 g (2 lb), and may be heavier than their parents. In Tasmania, and especially on the muttonbird islands of the Furneaux Group, the chicks are harvested at this time for food and oil. The largest population in the world (2.8 millions of pairs - about 12% of this species) seems to be located on the Babel Island
Babel Island
Babel Island is a granite island, with an area of 440 ha located off the east coast of Flinders Island. It is part of the Furneaux Group Archipelago, at the eastern end of Bass Strait, between Victoria and Tasmania, Australia. It is privately owned.-Fauna:...


Each austral
Southern Hemisphere
The Southern Hemisphere is the part of Earth that lies south of the equator. The word hemisphere literally means 'half ball' or "half sphere"...

 winter, the Shearwaters migrate to the seas off the Aleutian Islands and Kamchatka. In the austral spring, they travel down the coast of California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

 before crossing the Pacific back to Australia.

Culinary uses

Being a seabird, the flesh is covered in a considerable quantity of fat, which is normally removed in preparation of the meat before cooking.

When split down the breast and cooked on a barbecue, the resultant meat is red and thick, with a taste reminiscent of a beef steak more than of lamb, with a mild hint of the sea. The texture of the meat is similar to lamb or mutton and hence the name muttonbird. The dish is best eaten using one's hands rather than a knife and fork.


Gillson, Greg (2008) Field separation of Sooty and Short-tailed Shearwaters off the west coast of North America Birding
Birding (magazine)
Birding is the bimonthly members' magazine of the American Birding Association. While not a formal journal, Birding offers enthusiasts in-depth and scholarly articles on field identification and bird conservation. Each issue also features tips on North American and foreign birdfinding, news in the...


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