Friday, May 13, 2016


A shearwater is a bird. It's a sea bird, nothing that amazing in appearance. Sooty brown (there is a species, in fact, called the Sooty Shearwater), a crooked beak, black eye. 

You've probably never heard of it. It wouldn't make you turn your head. If I ever saw one in person I'd probably think, "gull" and go back to what I was doing, and I like birding. Growing up near the Gulf, gulls are a nuisance bird. The pigeons of the seashore.

The shearwater, though, is more than just a brown sea bird. It migrates more every year than any other bird--thousands of miles from northern Europe to South America, for instance, some in a figure-8 pattern, or infinity, back and forth through their lives, tens of thousands of miles each year. 

Often going days without eating to reach its destination, it can dive hundreds of feet into the seawater to catch fish. It is long-lived, too, with the oldest banded bird at over 55 years old in the wild. 

How many hundreds of thousands of miles that single bird has logged.

Shearwaters fly in a cruciform shape, tilting their long wings to catch the breeze. Their name comes from the habit of gliding on stiff wings along the troughs of waves, making its migration just a bit easier.

This bird found a niche in my brain years ago. Its tenacity, resilience, and stamina covered up in almost complete anonymity, flying across oceans all year long while I walk this solid earth unthinking. It fades in, I'm sure, with other sea birds, like gulls, hovering above the fishing boats, all looking the same.

But this one, this one is different. This one is alive in a way that others are not. This one has a story.

1 comment:

  1. I have always loved its name. But I just learned a lot of things I'd never heard about it...