email a friend
printable version
Newell's Shearwater Puffinus newelli
BirdLife is updating this factsheet for the 2016 Red List
Please email us with any relevant information
BirdLife Species Champion Become a BirdLife Preventing Extinctions Programme Supporter
For information about BirdLife Species Champions and Species Guardians visit the BirdLife Preventing Extinctions Programme.

This species appears to have declined very rapidly on its main breeding island, possibly associated with the impacts of Hurricane Iniki in 1992, and continues to decline, with two colonies known of in the early 1980s, and possibly a third, now abandoned. Combined with longer term declines owing to a number of other threats, it qualifies as Endangered.

Taxonomic source(s)
Brooke, M. de L. 2004. Albatrosses and Petrels Across the World. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
Christidis, L.; Boles, W. E. 2008. Systematics and taxonomy of Australian birds. CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood, Australia.
del Hoyo, J.; Collar, N. J.; Christie, D. A.; Elliott, A.; Fishpool, L. D. C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International.

Taxonomic note
Puffinus auricularis (Sibley and Moroe 1990, 1993) has been split into P. auricularis and P. newelli following Brooke (2004).

33 cm. Medium-sized shearwater, generally black above and white below. Undertail-coverts white basally, black distally, therefore appearing white (the last is the most useful field character). Similar spp. Townsend's Shearwater P. auricularis, but little or no range overlap. Hints Feeds at ocean fronts along the Equatorial Counter Current. Typical low fast flight of smaller shearwaters, but wingbeat slower than Audubon's Shearwater P. lherminieri.

Distribution and population
Puffinus newelli nests principally (90% of the population) (Hawkes 2009) on the mountains of Kaua'i, but small colonies exist on Moloka'i and Hawai'i and Lehua Islet (near Ni'ihau), and possibly also on O'ahu, Maui and Lana'i in the Hawaiian Islands (U.S.A.) (Ainley et al. 1997b, D. G. Ainley in litt. 1999, NSWG 2005) and on Rapa Island (French Polynesia) (del Hoyo et al. 2014). Evidence from radar observations indicate that it is present on Maui, possibly being most common in western Maui (Cooper and Day 2003). In 2004, a nesting site was observed in the upper Pi'ina'au headwater region in the Ko'olau Forest Reserve on East Maui due to activity vocalizing (Wood and Bily 2008). In the late 1970s, 90 eggs were transported from burrows inland to Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge and placed under incubating P. pacificus. Of these, 67 fledged, and there are now four P. newelli nests at the same site (Hawkes 2009). Estimates from pelagic surveys in the mid-1990s indicated c.84,000 birds (95% CI: 57,000-115, 000), from which the breeding population is estimated at 16,700-19,300 pairs (Spear et al. 1995). On Kaua'i, estimates range from the low thousands (King and Gould 1967) to c.15,000 breeding pairs (Ainley et al. 1997a). The species has undergone rapid historical declines and has been declining steadily on Kaua'i since 1992 (despite the fact that scattered colonies are regularly discovered [Ainley et al. 1997a]), with the most up-to-date information indicating a sudden drop in numbers (T. C. Telfer in litt. 1999). Radar data from 13 sites indicate a significant (60-62%) decline between 1993 and 1999-2001 in numbers visiting Kaua'i (Day et al. 2000, Day et al. 2003), while recoveries of stranded young birds showed a 72% decline between 1993 and 2001 (Day et al. 2003), and 75% decline from 1973 to 2008 (Harrison 2009). The decline appears to be associated with the impact of Hurricane Iniki in autumn 1992 (Brooke 2004), although mitigation measures against the effects of lights may have contributed in part to the decline in stranded juveniles (Day et al. 2003). . In addition to declining numbers, studies show a breeding range contraction, with three colonies active from 1980-1994 found to be inactive in 2006-2007 (Troy and Holmes 2008). When compared with still active colonies, inactive ones were found to be lower in elevation and composed of less native vegetation, indicating in addition to light attraction and predation, breeding habitat modification by non-native plants may also play a role in its decline (Troy and Holmes 2008). Population models incorporating best estimates of breeding effort and success yielded a population decline of 3.2% annually (Ainley et al. 2001 in NSWG 2005). When variables estimating the anthropogenic mortality suffered by the species (predation, light attraction, and collision) were included, these models predicted a population decline of 30-60% over 10 years (Ainley et al. 2001 in NSWG 2005). As well as a decline in numbers, the breeding range may also be contracting potentially as a result of habitat modification by non-native plant species (Troy and Holmes 2008). Combining this with longer term declines owing to habitat loss, introduced predators, disorientation owing to urban lighting and collision with power-lines, the species is estimated to be declining at rates exceeding 50% over 47 years (three generations).

Population justification
There is a pelagic estimate of 84,000 individuals (with a 95% confidence interval of 57,000-115,000) and from this the breeding population is estimated at 16,700-19,300 pairs.

Trend justification
Radar data from 1993 and 1999-2001 across 13 sites indicates a 60-62% decline in numbers visiting Kaua'i, while recoveries of stranded young birds showed a 72% decline over the same time period (Day et al. 2000, 2003). Population models incorporating best estimates of breeding effort and success yielded a population decline of 3.2% annually (Ainley et al. 2001 in NSWG 2005). When variables estimating the anthropogenic mortality suffered by the species (predation, light attraction, and collision) were included, these models predicted a population decline of 30-60% over 10 years (Ainley et al. 2001 in NSWG 2005). Combining this with longer term declines owing to habitat loss, introduced predators, disorientation owing to urban lighting and collision with power-lines, the species is estimated to be declining at rates exceeding 50% over 47 years (three generations)

It breeds at 160-1,200 m, apparently exhibiting habitat segregation from the Wedge-tailed Shearwater P. pacificus which is confined to lower altitudes (Ainley et al. 1997b). It usually nests in burrows associated with the root structure of trees, including Ohia lehua Metrosideros polymorpha, and a dominant understory of densely matted uluhe fern Dicranopteris linearis in montane mesic forests on steep slopes (Ainley et al. 1997b, T. Holmes in litt. 2007), although a minority nest in tussock-grass (D. G. Ainley in litt. 1999). Also recently found to nest in Sadleria cyatheoides dominated fern cover on East Maui (Wood and Bily 2008). Prior to the introduction of non-native predators, its nesting habitat was not restricted by the gradient of the slope (Ainley et al. 1997b). The breeding season begins in April, when birds return to prospect for nest sites and, following an exodus in late April, egg-laying in early June is highly synchronised (NSWG 2005). Pairs produce one egg, which is incubated for an average of 53-54 days, followed by a fledging period of 81-94 days (NSWG 2005). Most young fledge by November (Mitchell et al. 2005). The species's diet is not well known, although it is likely to consist of fish and squid (Mitchell et al. 2005). It forages for hundreds of kilometres offshore, often in large, mixed species flocks associated with schools of large, predatory fish that drive prey species to the ocean surface (Mitchell et al. 2005, NSWG 2005). The age at first breeding is likely to be around six or seven years (Mitchell et al. 2005).

On Kaua'i, hurricanes Iwa and Iniki devastated the forests in 1982 and 1992 (Pratt et al. 1994, Ainley et al. 1997b) and, since the latter, the species' population has been declining (T. C. Telfer in litt. 1999). Given that a large proportion of the population breeds on Kaua'i, catastrophic events, like hurricanes, are a serious threat (Mitchell et al. 2005). Subsequent and ongoing habitat modification by alien invasive plant species, such as strawberry guava Psidium cattleianum, and feral pigs and goats, pose a significant threat (Mitchell et al. 2005, NSWG 2005, Troy and Holmes 2008). This is likely to be a contributing factor at one known colony abandonment (T. Holmes in litt. 2007). The recent establishment of the two-spotted leafhopper Sophonia rufofascia, which feeds on D. linearis, could be a further problem (Cooper and Day 1998). Predation (e.g. by cats, rats, dogs, Barn Owls Tyto alba and pigs) is an additional threat (D. G. Ainley in litt. 1999, Mitchell et al. 2005, NSWG 2005). Predation of adults and juveniles by cats has been documented on Kaua'i, and rats are assumed to take eggs and chicks (NSWG 2005). Another potential predator, the small Asian mongoose Herpestes javanicus, has recently been discovered on Kaua'i (NSWG 2005). An estimated 70 adults and 280 subadults each summer, and at least 340 fledglings each autumn, die as a result of collisions with power-lines and communications towers, or indirectly because of light attraction (Podolsky et al. 1998, Anon. 2007). Birds attracted by artificial lighting become exhausted and fall to the ground. Once on the ground, fledglings are unable to fly and many are killed by cars or cats and dogs, and some die from starvation or dehydration (Mitchell et al. 2005). Between 1978 and 1981, more than 5,000 individuals were grounded on Kaua'i, and over 30,000 have been recovered since 1979 (Anon. 2007). On Kaua'i, approximately 1,500 fledglings are recovered annually after becoming grounded (Mitchell et al. 2005). Nine communications towers have recently been constructed on the Hawaiian Islands without proper consultation, and these are now the subject of an ongoing lawsuit (Anon. 2007). A field of wind generators is planned for Lana'i (A. Wilson in litt. 2007), where the species potentially breeds, although this is thought to be unlikely (T. Holmes in litt. 2007). On Hawai'i, cinder mining has resulted in habitat loss at several colonies (Mitchell et al. 2005). The species may suffer indirect impacts from the over-fishing of tuna Thunnus species, which drive prey species to the ocean surface (Mitchell et al. 2005, NSWG 2005). This could have implications for the energetic costs of foraging, with potential impacts on chick growth and fledging success (Mitchell et al. 2005, NSWG 2005). Fledglings have been found with pox lesions, suggesting that disease may be affecting breeding populations (Mitchell et al. 2005).

Conservation Actions Underway
In the late 1970s, a cross-fostering experiment was carried out at Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge, in which 90 P. newelli eggs were placed in P. pacificus nests (Anon. 2007). Subsequently, 30 young were fledged, and the four breeding pairs currently nesting there are believed to be descendents of fostered birds (Anon. 2007). Colony calls are being played and artificial burrows constructed to attract more nesting pairs to the refuge, where there is a low threat from collisions with artificial structures, and measures are being put in place to control alien species (Anon. 2007). There is an active programme to control lights, and disorientated fledglings are recovered and released, although few of these birds have subsequently been recovered (NSWG 2005). Lighting on some buildings has been designed to reduce collisions (Ainley et al. 1997b). A ruling brought by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2006, under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, has enforced a campaign running since 2005, in which all non-essential lights on Kaua'i are required to be turned off or shielded between 15 September and 15 December when young birds leave their nests (Appel 2006). The island's electricity company is helping by darkening all of its 3,000 street lights, and shielding or turning some of them off. The company has also fitted large balls to power-lines in an effort to reduce the number of birds that collide with the cables (Appel 2006). Significant improvements have been made in reducing light attraction and collision (T. Holmes in litt. 2007), and 30,000 downed birds have been rescued through the Save Our Shearwaters (SOS) programme since the 1980s (Harrison 2009). In 2010, four environmental groups sued a hotel development, which was responsible for over one quarter of all downed birds as a result of light pollution. Several other suits have been brought for violations under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) (Harrison 2009). However, there is still a considerable amount of developing and existing infrastructure that needs to be modified. It is not expected that the threat posed by artificial lighting will ever be eliminated (T. Holmes in litt. 2007). There is an ongoing programme to identify new colonies suitable for terrestrial conservation efforts (predator control, habitat restoration), further refine ornithological radar and other monitoring methods (Mitchell et al. 2005, NSWG 2005). Conservation Actions Proposed
Reduce collisions with power-lines by making them more visible, burying them or moving them further inland where birds fly higher (Cooper and Day 1998). Study the affects of artificial lights on the species (Mitchell et al. 2005). Ensure lighting does not attract petrels (Ainley et al. 1997b). Control predators at a minimum of two colonies (Ainley et al. 1997b, T. Holmes in litt. 2007). Carry out further research into the causes of the decline on Kaua'i (Day et al. 2003). Use radar observations to monitor population trends (Mitchell et al. 2005, NSWG 2005). Conduct long-term demographic studies (Mitchell et al. 2005). Develop methods to monitor breeding success (Mitchell et al. 2005, NSWG 2005). Continue to retrieve grounded birds (T. Holmes in litt. 2007). Continue to search for additional breeding areas and carry out further research into foraging range and feeding behaviour (Mitchell et al. 2005, NSWG 2005). Initiate studies into the potential effects of the tuna fishery on the species's populations, perhaps by modelling interactions (Mitchell et al. 2005, NSWG 2005). Develop methods to evaluate the survival rates of released birds, and test alternative rehabilitation practices if required (NSWG 2005).

Related state of the world's birds case studies

Ainley, D. G.; Telfer, T. C.; Reynolds, M. H. 1997. Townsend's and Newell's Shearwater (Puffinus auricularis). In: Poole, A.; Gill, F. (ed.), The birds of North America, No. 297, pp. 1-20. The Academy of Natural Sciences and The American Ornithologists' Union, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.

Anon. 2007. A refuge for shearwaters: minimizing bird collisions on Kauai. Bird Conservation: 16-17.

Appel, A. 2006. Hawaii Island dims lights to save crashing birds. Available at: #

Brooke, M. de L. 2004. Albatrosses and Petrels Across the World. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Cooper, B. A.; Day, R. H. 1998. Summer behaviour and mortality of Dark-rumped Petrels and Newell's Shearwaters at power lines on Kauai. Colonial Waterbirds 21: 11-19.

Cooper, B. A.; Day, R. H. 2003. Movement of the Hawaiian Petrel to inland breeding sites on Maui Island, Hawai'i. Waterbirds 26: 62-71.

Day, R. H.; Cooper, B. A.; Telfer, T. C. 2000. Decline of Newell's Shearwaters on Kauai, Hawaii.

Day, R. H.; Cooper, B. A.; Telfer, T. C. 2003. Decline of Townsend's (Newell's) Shearwaters (Puffinus auricularis newelli) on Kauai, Hawaii. The Auk 120: 669-679.

del Hoyo, J., Collar, N. and Kirwan, G.M. 2014. Newell's Shearwater (Puffinus newelli). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. and de Juana, E. (eds), Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive, Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.

Harrison, C. S. 2009. Conservation of Newell's Shearwaters and Hawaiian Petrels. Pacific Seabirds 36(2): 45.

IUCN. 2015. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015-4. Available at: (Accessed: 19 November 2015).

King, W. B.; Gould, P. J. 1967. The status of Newell's race of the Manx Shearwater. Living Bird 6th ann.: 163-186.

Mitchell, C.; Ogura, C.; Meadows, D. W.; Kane, A.; Strommer, L.; Fretz, S.; Leonard, D.; McClung, A. 2005. Hawaii's comprehensive wildlife conservation strategy.

Podolsky, R.; Ainley, D. G.; Spencer, G.; de Forest, L.; Nur, N. 1998. Mortality of Newell's Shearwaters caused by collisions with urban structures on Kauai. Colonial Waterbirds 21: 20-34.

Spear, L. B.; Ainley, D. G.; Nur, N.; Howell, S. N. G. 1995. Population size and factors affecting at-sea distributions of four endangered Procellariids in the tropical Pacific. Condor 97: 613-638.

Troy, J. R.; Holmes, N. D. 2008. Reduction in the breeding range of Newell's Shearwaters Puffinus newelli on Kauai, Hawaii: evidence and insights from field surveys and GIS modelling.

Wood, K. R.; Bily, P. 2008. Vegetation description of a nesting site for Newell's Shearwater (Puffinus auricularis newelli), Pi'ina'au Stream, East Maui, Hawai'i. 'Elepaio 68(8): 63-66.

Further web sources of information
Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species

Search for photos and videos, and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection

Text account compilers
Anderson, O., Benstead, P., Butchart, S., Calvert, R., Isherwood, I., Stattersfield, A., Stuart, T., Taylor, J., Symes, A. & Ashpole, J

Ainley, D., Pimm, S., Pratt, H., Telfer, T., Wilson, A. & Holmes, N

IUCN Red List evaluators
Symes, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Puffinus newelli. Downloaded from on 25/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 25/10/2016.

This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife

To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.

Additional resources for this species

ARKive species - Newell’s shearwater (Puffinus newelli) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Endangered
Family Procellariidae (Petrels, Shearwaters)
Species name author Henshaw, 1900
Population size mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 12,500,000 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species