They glide in a constant stream passed the boat. Hundreds, thousands amass, reconfigure and disperse in sinuous effortless gyrating eddies. Like a heat haze, but the air is chill.

The light is waning. The mountains are receding. Golden strands finger through the silver clouds. And still they come. Like a scene from Hitchcock’s, ‘The Birds’. But these birds are silent.

Sooty shearwaters. We count over 4000 individuals.

Such fecund wildlife is becoming every day parlance in these mysterious Chilean channels. Yet these shearwaters are the kings. They reside in the mighty albatross and petrel family. They are truly pelagic, spending months, even years at sea, only to return to their underground borrows to breed.

And here in Chile lies Isla Guafo, home to up to 4 000,000 breeding sooty shearwatersBirdlife Important Bird Area, IBA) thought to be one of the largest seabird colonies in the world.

Photo, Isla Magdalena, southern Chile


Onley, D. and Scofield, P. 2007. Albatrosses, Petrels and Shearwaters of the world. Helm, London.

Clark, G. 1988. The Totorore Voyage. An Antarctic Adventure. Century Hutchinson, New Zealand.


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