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Rapa Shearwater


Photos Fred Jacq

Puffin de Rapa (7)_site© Fred_JACQ

Puffin de Rapa © Fred JACQ

13 inches. Dark grey on top, white on the ventral side. The flanks are white to the sides of the tail. Easily distinguishable from other white-bellied black shearwaters, Baillon’s Shearwater (Puffinus bailloni). As for the latter species, the ventral surface of the wings is white, but the flight feathers are black and a little black fringe is present on the front edge. Its black beak, is characteristic of puffins. It is hooked at its end and its tubular nostrils open on the first third of the spout. Its beak much more elongated and tapered than the petrel’s one. The legs are black and blue. In flight, as all shearwaters and petrels, it alternates long flight phases hovered at short wing beats flying low on the surface of the water. Its tail is long and black.

Order: Procellariiformes

Family: Procellariidae

Category: Seabirds

Left: Rapa Shearwater dorsal face, hold by Steve Cranwell (BirdLife International)
A droite : Rapa Shearwater ventral face, hold by Steve Cranwell (BirdLife International)

Philippe Raust : According to some authors, this Shearwater must be considered as a subspecies (P. auricularis myrtae) of Townsend’s Shearwater or Newell’s Shearwater. For others, it would be a distinct species (P. myrtae). If this conclusion were to be retained, the Rapa Shearwater would join the list of endemic species of French Polynesia and it would be the only seabird to be included!
To learn more, please read (in french sorry…!) “L’énigmatique Puffin de Rapa” in Te Manu N°89 (august 2016).

Comments by Fred Jacq:
One of the goals of the SOP Manu – BirdLife International mission from March to April 2017 on the island of Rapa was the rediscovery of Rapa Shearwater, kaki kaki. A study is underway to obtain good quality genetic material and several individuals from both Rapa and the Hawaiian Islands to analyze more genes and better define their status.


it breeds in Rapa but migrates for the rest of the year. The only other known colonies of the species P. auricularis are in Hawaii.


Nests on small islands of 30-100 meters above the sea level. Needs a loose soil to dig their burrows.

Night calls, reminiscent of a donkey. Emits its call while flying or on the ground.

To listen the Rapa Shearwater:

Small fish and shellfish caught by diving from the surface.

Living in large colonies, they nest in a burrow of 1 to 2 meters long especially during the austral winter in Rapa where it lays a single egg. Adults do not parade over the colonies and only visit their nests at night.

Original text by Caroline BLANVILLAIN – Supplements and update by various members of the SOP Manu.



Scientifique Name: Puffinus myrtae  Bourne, 1959

Polynesian Names:
Kaki kaki (Rapa)

  • Austral: Rapa (breeding)
  • Hawaii


Threatened because it has very little nesting sites and because predators were introduced on several of these sites (cats, rats, dogs and pigs). The Rapa colony isn’t well known. This population has long been confused with a related species, the Little Shearwater Puffinus assimilis. This species’ population based in Hawaii is estimated at 8000 adults. In Hawaii, the species faces issues such as destruction of colonies by fire, avian malaria, and juvenile mortality.

The species is classified as « En danger » (EN) sur la France and Polynesia 2015 UICN Red List but listed as « Critically Endangered » (CR) on the IUCN Red List.