Pink-footed shearwater (Puffinus creatopus) COSEWIC assessment and status report: chapter 2

Executive Summary

Pink-footed Shearwater
Puffinus Creatopus

Species information

The Pink-footed Shearwater Puffinus creatopus Coues, 1864 is a stocky and rather broad-winged seabird. In flight individuals appear heavy, with laboured wingbeats. The plumage is a combination of grayish-brown upperparts, white underparts with smudgy markings, mottled underwings, and a dusky head. The iris is brown, the bill pinkish-yellow with a dusky tip, and the legs and feet are pink. Juveniles and adults are alike in plumage, as are the sexes, with no seasonal variation. There is some uncertainty surrounding the classification of the species. The Flesh-footed Shearwater (Puffinus carneipes) is very closely related but has an entirely dark plumage.


The Pink-footed Shearwater occurs primarily in the eastern Pacific, breeding on three islands off the coast of Chile: Isla Mocha in Arauco Bay, and Robinson Crusoe and Santa Clara in the oceanic Juan Fernandez Archipelago. The marine range extends northwards along the coast of South and North America at least as far as the south coast of Alaska. While Pink-footed Shearwaters are known to occur in all seasons off Peru and Chile, the species is usually only found along North American coasts during the boreal spring and summer months. In Canada, the species occurs exclusively off the coast of British Columbia.


Pink-footed Shearwaters are colonial breeders, nesting in long, twisted burrows up to a few metres long. While burrows are located in dense forest on Isla Mocha, those on Robinson Crusoe and Santa Clara are located in open terrain with grassy vegetation. In the marine environment, Pink-footed Shearwaters display a preference for travelling and foraging within one kilometre of the mainland coast during the breeding season. Throughout the species North American wintering range, a preference is shown for the biologically productive waters associated with the continental shelf.


The Pink-footed Shearwater breeds in the austral summer. Following breeding, birds move north along the western coasts of South America towards North America. The migration is indicated by the increasing numbers of Pink-footed Shearwaters along the continental shelf from the Gulf of California to British Columbia from April to early fall. In late October numbers begin to decrease as birds move back towards Chile and the breeding colonies. The diet includes sardines (Sardinops sagax) and anchovies (Engraulis japonicus), squid and crustaceans. The Pink-footed Shearwater can be either solitary or gregarious and often associates with other shearwaters throughout its range, especially Sooty (Puffinus griseus) and Buller’s Shearwaters (P. bulleri).

Population sizes and trends

The breeding population of the Pink-footed Shearwater, based on rough estimates of the number of burrows in each colony, is about 60,000 individuals. While populations in the Juan Fernandez group appear to have been more or less stable over the last 15 years, populations are believed to have declined severely in the past, particularly on Robinson Crusoe. Although there is no direct evidence, populations on Isla Mocha are believed to be declining due to the effects of chick harvesting. There is currently no demographic information available for the Pink-footed Shearwater.  

Limiting factors and threats

Throughout the species' wintering range in North America, Pink-footed Shearwaters prefer waters over the outer edge of the continental shelf, areas that are also heavily used by longline fisheries. Interactions between the species and the fishery are therefore highly likely throughout their range. In addition, Pink-footed Shearwaters readily follow ships, further increasing the likelihood of interactions. The abundance of the species over the seaward half of the shelf in their wintering range also leaves them particularly vulnerable to the effects of oil pollution from either illegal dumping of oily bilges as well as from oil spills. These latter threats represent the greatest risks to the continued occurrence of the species in Canada. 

The main terrestrial threats facing the Pink-footed Shearwater are from introduced predators, human disturbance and exploitation, and habitat destruction. The importance of each of these differs between breeding locations. Coatis (Nasua nasua) were introduced onto Robinson Crusoe Island in the Juan Fernandez group to control rats (Rattus rattus), and their presence is likely the greatest threat to the population of Pink-footed Shearwaters there. Although illegal, it is estimated that approximately 20% of the annual chick production is taken by humans each year on Isla Mocha. Burrows are also regularly destroyed in order to gain access to the chicks. Seabird-fishery interactions and oil spills are also significant potential risks. During the breeding season, Pink-footed Shearwaters from Isla Mocha show a strong preference for foraging in areas that also support an extensive fishing industry.

Special significance of the species

The Pink-footed Shearwater is at risk world-wide.

Existing protection or other status designations

Status designations for the Pink-footed Shearwater include: Vulnerable listing by the World Conservation Union (IUCN); coverage by the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species; protection of breeding habitat in Chile; SZN ranking (regular migrant with dispersed occurrences) in British Columbia by NatureServe.


The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) was created in 1977 as a result of a recommendation at the Federal-Provincial Wildlife Conference held in 1976. It arose from the need for a single, official, scientifically sound, national listing of wildlife species at risk. In 1978, COSEWIC designated its first species and produced its first list of Canadian species at risk. On June 5, 2003, the Species at Risk Act (SARA) was proclaimed. SARA establishes COSEWIC as an advisory body ensuring that species will continue to be assessed under a rigorous and independent scientific process.


The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) assesses the national status of wild species, subspecies, varieties, or other designatable units that are considered to be at risk in Canada. Designations are made on native species and include the following taxonomic groups: mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fishes, arthropods, molluscs, vascular plants, mosses, and lichens.

COSEWIC Membership

COSEWIC comprises members from each provincial and territorial government wildlife agency, four federal organizations (Canadian Wildlife Service, Parks Canada Agency, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and the Federal Biosystematic Partnership, chaired by the Canadian Museum of Nature), three nonjurisdictional members and the co-chairs of the species specialist and the Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge subcommittees. The committee meets to consider status reports on candidate species.

Definitions (after May 2004)

Any indigenous species, subspecies, variety, or geographically or genetically distinct population of wild fauna and flora.

Extinct (X)
A species that no longer exists.

Extirpated (XT)
A species no longer existing in the wild in Canada, but occurring elsewhere.

Endangered (E)
A species facing imminent extirpation or extinction.

Threatened (T)
A species likely to become endangered if limiting factors are not reversed.

Special Concern (SC)Footnotea
A species that may become a threatened or an endangered species because of a combination of biological characteristics and identified threats.

Not at Risk (NAR)Footnoteb
A species that has been evaluated and found to be not at risk.

Data Deficient (DD)Footnotec
A species for which there is insufficient scientific information to support status designation.


Canadian Wildlife Service

The Canadian Wildlife Service, Environment Canada, provides full administrative and financial support to the COSEWIC Secretariat.


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