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Petrels and shearwaters: status summaries

other species
Waterford Birds: species status summaries

Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis
Common breeding species and passage-migrant. 
Dark-phase Fulmars ('blue' Fulmars) occur mainly as scarce passage-migrants, but have also been recorded occupying cliff ledges at Helvick Head and Mine Head in summer.
Fea's Petrel  Pterodroma feae or Zino's Petrel Pterodroma madeira


Vagrant: one autumn record. 


1998:      Helvick Head, 6 September 1998. 


Like other Irish records of this species-pair, Fea's Petrel was the most likely species involved.

Cory's Shearwater Calonectris diomedea

Rare passage-migrant in late summer and autumn, but more frequent in some years.


First recorded in 1976, when five were seen from a ferry off the Waterford coast on 22 August.  Recorded in nine subsequent years, 1977-2012, most frequently from Helvick Head, with peak numbers in 1999 and especially 2012.


1976:      Five, ‘a few miles’ off the Waterford coast, 22 August.

1977:      Dungarvan Bay, 11 August.

               Helvick Head, 12 August.

1980:      Three, Tramore Bay, 21 August.

1999:      Helvick Head – 2 August (1); 7 August (1); 30 August (4); 7 September (1); 8 September (25).!

2003:      Helvick Head, 19 or 20 July.!

2005:      Helvick Head – 2 July (2 W); 5 July (1 W); 19 July (5+- 4 E, 7 W), also 5 unidentified large shearwaters E.

2007:      Helvick Head, 18 August.

2008:      Helvick Head – 1 August (11 W); 9 August (1).

2011:      Two W, Brownstown Head, 24 July.

               Helvick Head – 12 July (2); 10 September (1).

2012:      105 W, Ram Head, 2 August (in 3 hours 16:45-19:45).

               Helvick Head – 150+ W, 2 August (in 2.5 hours, 17:40-21:05); 3 W, 3 August.


The 1980 record from Tramore Bay was on the same date that a still-record total of almost 11,000 Cory’s Shearwaters passed Cape Clear Island (Co Cork).

Great Shearwater Puffinus gravis

Scarce and irregular passage-migrant in late summer and autumn.


First recorded in the 19th century, when two living specimens, captured by hake-fishermen off Dungarvan, were brought ashore alive, in August 1835 and September 1839 (Thompson vol. III). There were several sightings from fishing boats off west Waterford in the 1970s, and occasional sightings more recently. Most recent sightings have been from land, mainly off Helvick Head, where a record county total of 54 passed on  8 September 1999.


Sooty Shearwater Puffinus griseus

Uncommon passage-migrant in late summer and autumn, rare in spring.

Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus

Abundant passage-migrant & non-breeding summer-visitor; rare in winter.


Regularly recorded in small to moderate numbers, passing or feeding offshore, from March to October, with larger numbers occasionally.  Particularly large feeding or resting flocks have been recorded during May-July.  Flocks or hourly passage rates exceed 1000 birds on occasion.  Rare outside the months March-October.


Inland records include one along the River Suir at Mount Congreve, upriver of Waterford city, on 13 July 1993, and another near there (in foggy conditions) on 23 July 2012.

Balearic Shearwater Puffinus mauretanicus


Scarce passage-migrant in summer, autumn and winter, rare in spring.  


Mainly recorded July-October but with several records in winter or spring. First recorded in 1978, off Helvick Head on 22 July. Most subsequent records have been from Helvick Head, Brownstown Head, Ram Head and Clonea Strand. 

Storm Petrel Hydrobates pelagicus

Uncommon, but under-recorded, passage-migrant & non-breeding summer-visitor (mainly May-August).


Mainly recorded May-August during onshore winds or in foggy conditions along the coast, with Helvick Head, Brownstown Head and Waterford Harbour among the most frequent locations.  Presumed wandering non-breeding birds have also been attracted ashore for mist-netting and ringing using tape-lures of the churring call, during July and August. Up to 50 birds in a night at Helvick Head and Ardmore Head, and up to 100 in a night at Brownstown Head, have been captured in this way.


Leach's Petrel Oceanodroma leucorhoa

Rare passage-migrant in autumn and winter.


This species is prone to being driven inshore (or ashore) by severe storms in late autumn or winter.  Among other occasions in the 19th century, it was recorded in Co Waterford during south-westerly storms in the period 26 September to 14 October 1891(Ussher & Warren 1900).  More recently, the large-scale ‘wreck’ of Leach’s Petrels in autumn 1952 also involved Co Waterford.


In recent decades, most records have been from Helvick Head or elsewhere in the Dungarvan area, typically during or after onshore gales. A count of 12 off Helvick Head on 18 September 1999 was particularly notable.


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