Streaked shearwater (Calonectris leucomelas), a rare migratory bird, has been sighted for the first time in Kerala.
The bird was spotted at Azhikkal fish landing centre in the Kannur district during a rapid monsoon pelagic bird survey conducted jointly by the Malabar Natural History Society (MNHS) and Kerala Birder.
Prior to this, the species has been recorded just twice in India, in the seas off Kanyakumari and Rameshawaram in 1982 and 1978, respectively.
The survey team said that a single bird was seen afloat along with a small flock of the more common Fleshfooted Shearwaters.
The bird was quite distinctive with its pale plumage as against the dark-brown Flesh-footed Shearwaters.
“Streaked Shearwater is a vagrant bird and is not common in India. Even though it’s not the season of sea bird migration, its presence in Kerala can be attributed to the fact that the bird may have lost its way and arrived in the harbour,” said Jafar Palot, scientist, Zoological Survey of India, Western Ghat Regional Centre, Kozhikode.
This marine species is found over both pelagic and inshore waters of western Pacific region including Japan, Russia and on islands off the coasts of China, North Korea and South Korea.
It migrates south during winter, being found off the coasts of Vietnam, New Guinea, the Philippines and Australia.
Streaked Shearwater feeds mainly on fish and squid.
Even though the population size of the bird is extremely large, according to BirdLife International, the prevalence of threats from introduced predators suggests that the species is in overall decline.