Sooty Shearwater

Sooty shearwaters are rarely seen up close by land-bound humans. They travel in enormous flocks, numbering in the hundreds of thousands —all summer long they can (barely) be seen off the coast of California, just below the horizon, moving like an endless cloud over the water.

After summering in Cali, many head across the Pacific to Japan, then return to their breeding grounds in New Zealand and / or Chile. Their migration route is the longest in the animal kingdom (39,000 miles).

FUN FACT: On 18 August 1961, residents in the town of Capitola, California, awoke to find sooty shearwaters slamming into their rooftops, and their streets covered with dead birds. News reports suggested domoic acid poisoning (amnesic shellfish poisoning) as the cause. According to a local newspaper, the Santa Cruz Sentinel, Alfred Hitchcock requested news copy in 1961 to use as "research material for his latest thriller.”

Find out more about the Sooty Shearwater from the awesome bird nerds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.