One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
A shearwater or petrel of the southern oceans.
Family Procellariidae: several species, in particular (in Australia) the short-tailed shearwater (Puffinus tenuirostris), and (in New Zealand) the sooty shearwater (P. griseus)
- ‘The Maori had taken huge quantities of eels and mutton birds back to New Zealand.’
- ‘The Maori cuisine is based on seafood, mutton birds (young petrels), wild pork or fowl, fat lamb, and kumara.’
- ‘Also known as mutton birds, the shearwaters usually travel past the west coast of Ireland before crossing the Atlantic to nest in their native Tierra Del Fuego during mid December.’
- ‘In coastal areas they have been known to kill and eat young mutton birds.’
- ‘Similarly, we have the example of the mutton birds in the Titi Islands.’
Early 19th century: because when cooked, the flesh of some species resembles mutton in flavour.
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