Annotated Alabama Record Pelagic List

Species Latin Name Acceptable Records, Month Range, Year
Cory’s Shearwater Calonectris diomedea (15+ accepted AL records, June-October,  2001 last)

Probably the most common large shearwater in gulf waters from late spring into fall.  Several recent records from Texas and Louisiana deepwater trips coincide nicely with the recent finds off Alabama. 

Greater Shearwater Puffinus gravis (20+, July-December, 2000)

Eight (+) Alabama records from shore indicate that a deepwater trip may not be necessary to add this species to your state list.  Several winter records suggest that the migration to breed in South America may be delayed by some.

Sooty Shearwater Puffinus griseus (12+, September-May, 2005)

Several winter records from shore. 

Audubon’s Shearwater Puffinus lherminieri (9, year-round, 2000)

Even though this is apparently one of the more common gulf deepwater pelagic species, five of the Alabama records are from shore. Care must be taken to separate this small shearwater from the Manx Shearwater, since there are a few recent records of this much rarer species in the Gulf of Mexico.

Wilson’s Storm-Petrel Oceanites oceanicus (20+, May-August, 2001)

Several researchers believe this may be the world’s most abundant bird species. Of the three recorded Alabama storm-petrels, this is the one most likely to be seen in continental shelf waters. Readily attracted to chum.

Leach’s Storm-Petrel Oceanodroma leucorhoa (4, May-October, 1997)

One inland (Eufaula NWR!) record prior to the 1996 deepwater trip.

Band-rumped Storm-Petrel Oceanodroma castro (8, May-August, 2005)

Unknown in Alabama waters prior to the 1996 deepwater trip.  Records from gulf coastal states indicate Band-rumped is at least as numerous as Wilson’s and possibly more so in water >1,000 fathoms!  One Tennessee Valley (inland) record following Hurricane Katrina (2005)!

Red-billed Tropicbird Phaethon aethereus (2, August, 2001)

As predicted, this spectacular species has now been seen twice since 1998 in Alabama waters.  The first record was an adult seen during a gulf bird migration survey from a gas production platform 55 nautical miles offshore (292 fathoms) on August 30, 1999.  The second was an immature found on August 18, 2001, in around 25 fathom water (40 n.m. from shore).  It was enjoyed for several minutes by a boat load of twelve AOS pelagic trip participants!

Masked Booby Sula dactylatra (35+, year-round)

After jaegers, probably the most common deepwater gulf pelagic species.  Boobies are frequently attracted to drilling rigs and especially those with satellite mooring buoys where they may perch undisturbed for extended periods. 

Brown Booby Sula leucogaster (20, year-round, 2000)

Although most Alabama records are from shore, this species should also be expected in “Masked” habitat near drilling rigs far offshore.

Red-necked Phalarope Phalaropus lobatus (14, August-May, 1998)

A rare inland migrant, this high arctic breeder may be found offshore from late fall into early spring. 

Red Phalarope Phalaropus fulicaria (20+, July-April, 2000)

While rarer than the Red-necked Phalarope inland, the Red may actually be more numerous offshore during winter.  The Alabama database, however, is small.

Pomarine Jaeger Stercorarius pomarinus (20+, year-round)

May be the most common year-round deepwater gulf pelagic species.

Parasitic Jaeger Stercorarius parasiticus (25+, year-round)

Many nearshore records, especially in winter.

Long-tailed Jaeger  Stercorarius longicaudus (4, September-October, 2005)

Finding the next Long-tailed may be easier than consoling those birders who missed it! 

Roseate Tern Sterna dougallii (3, April & September, 1979)

There are very few Alabama records for this beautiful tern.

Arctic Tern  Sterna paradisaea (1, July, 2006)

One accepted report seen on the beach south of Ft. Morgan.

Bridled Tern Sterna anaethetus (20+, April-October, 2001)

Usually the most common tern species encountered once the continental shelf is crossed or sargassum weed lines found. Tends to fly nearer the water than Sooties and can be attracted to chum or small fish.

Sooty Tern Sterna fuscata (27, March-October, 1998)

Can be nearly as common as Bridled in deepwater, however, separating the two species takes some preparation and good views.  A frequent wanderer after hurricanes, Sooty Terns may be more likely to be seen from shore than Bridled.

Brown Noddy Anous stolidus (6, May-September, 2004)

Only a few Alabama records.  At least three records following hurricane/tropical storm passage:   Frederick (1979),  Isidore (2002), Ivan (2004).