Trinidad and Tobago Field Naturalists' Club         Southeastern Caribbean Bird Alert         Trinidad and Tobago Rare Bird Committee
RESPONSES TO 'Manx Shearwater' (Puffinus puffinus)
The following responses are provided chronologically and anonymously to protect the identities of those who may not have wanted their opinions publicized. If you wish to add your comments to this page, click here. If you wish your name and e-mail address posted, you must explicitly state so.

RESPONDENT 1:  Floyd Hayes <>
     I've just uploaded two photos of a shearwater identified as a Manx from Dominica... I'm wondering whether it really is. The tail strikes me as a bit long for Manx. The undertail coverts appear white but I understand some Audubon's have white undertail coverts as well. As a potential "first" for Dominica, any opinions would be appreciated.

     I'd say definitely not Manx. As you point out, the shape is wrong with  a long tailed appearance. It also has too much dark on the underside of  the wings, especially on leading portions of underwing coverts, but also  the underside of the secondaries and primaries. The blended facial pattern particularly evident on the second image is also wrong for Manx which  has some freckling, but from a distance a much crisper looking pattern.
     It's most likely Audubon's.

     I'm no expert, but I have seen Manx and see Audubon's regularly. (And hope to find Manx in Georgia next week!) Anyway, the tail does  look a  bit long for Manx but the face pattern looks very good for Manx and not  for Audubon's, and the long wings look good for Manx also. I think it is a Manx.

     I don't think its a Manx. Seems to have too much smudging around the neck and chest. Beyond considering an aberrant Audubon's (which I am not very familiar with, there are a number of similar European Shearwaters to be considered.

     This bird does look like slightly odd-shaped for a Manx, particularly  the head and bill, but both shots are in awkward postures. I am not  convinced it necessarily has a longish tail. I can find little else wrong with it for Manx:
- it looks more black than brown
- the underwing pattern looks spot on
- the distribution of black and white on the side of the head and neck
also looks perfectly OK, particularly the amount of black below the eye and
the way the white extends up behind the ear-coverts.
     The various shots on Angus Wilson's site:

     and Brian Patteson's site:

     I think support Manx more than Audubon's, as well as my own pictures here:

     So I cannot reject it as a Manx, it seems wrong in a number of respects for Audubon's, but is it good enough as a first?

     I think it's an Audubon's because of the shape (mainly tail length) and the amount of black under the wings (too much for Manx).  The border between the black and white on the face looks a bit ragged, like on Manx rather than Audubon's, but that could be an artifact of the photo.
     I reiterate what you have said: MANY Audubon's have white undertail coverts, maybe as many as one third of all birds.  David Lee has many specimens in the North Carolina museum; this basic fact is taking forever to percolate out into the field guides.  So if the Dominica bird was thought to be Manx on the basis of white undertail coverts, I would certainly think it an Audubon's.

     I note someone's ammonet about the Dominica shearwater being black not brown and thus more like Manx.  I've held dozens of Audubon's  Shearwaters at their nesting burrows in the Caribbean, and they are not the least bit brown on the upperparts.  I believe the "brown vs. black" criterion for Audubon's derived from most Americans seeing 1-year-olds and worn adults in the Gulf Stream; these birds are bleached or worn and appear brownish - as are bleached or worn Manx. I think upperparts coloration is useless as a character for Manx vs. Audubon's, and this seems to be born out by museum collections.

      I side with [respondent 5] in feeling it is much closer to Manx - especially on bill length, which I think is an underrated means of ID-ing Manx from Audubon's.  The apparent lack of white on the under-primaries may be due to angle/lighting.

     Count me as a Manx believer. The undertail coverts look white, the upperparts look jet black, and the black/white separation from bill to front of wing is off for Audubon, which is normally fairly straight. Manx definitely has a lot of black dipping well downward between these two areas. I've seen thousands of Audubons, and 50 or more Manx. But, I'd be hesitant to say the photos proves a Manx.

     Its NOT a Manx Shearwater...the cut off of dark and lite on the face is all wrong for Manx.  It too should show a more clearcut
"Common Merg." style seperation.  The muddiness extening into throat area I have never seen on a Manx. The auricular mark though much touted about, can be seen on Black-vented, Audubon's, and Manx, amongst probably others, so is not a definitive character either way.
     The extension of dark on the shoulder, coming down onto the breast is very good for Audubon's, whilst it shouldn't be there on a Manx. And as [respondent 2] says it does look "longish tailed" which on a shearwater (which typically look near-tailless) is significant, though its probably more a result of more body behind the wing than an actual long tail..., but it points to Audubon's, as do the broad dark margins on underwing (also mentioned by [respondent 2]).

RESPONDENT 10 [in correspondence with Respondent 2]
     You beat me to the punch by about 10 minutes. I was going to post about the same message. Coincidentally, **** ******* and I just last Thursday observed a Manx from La Bufadora near Ensenada so the fresh image conflicted with the bird in the post which was all wrong for Manx especially the underwing margins, ragged line of demarcation between the face and throat and the long tail. I thought the bill was a bit too long as well. Turns out the La Bufadora Manx was the first for all of Mexico.