Dead muttonbirds washed up on Safety Beach. Hundreds of the exhausted birds are being washed ashore.
Dead muttonbirds washed up on Safety Beach. Hundreds of the exhausted birds are being washed ashore. Trevor Veale

Muttonbirds victims of wild weather

MUTTONBIRDS in their hundreds are being washed ashore on beaches from Byron Bay to south of Sydney in one of the regular natural disasters that affects these migratory species.

Safety Beach residents Sue and Howard Dengate said they found 16 dead birds on their beach walk yesterday and only one live bird, which they took to WIRES.

National Parks and Wildlife Service information officer Lawrence Orel said the short-tailed shearwaters were being washed ashore after encountering particularly wild weather at sea last weekend.

The storm killed and weakened hundreds of the birds as they battled through the last leg of their migration back to Australia from as far away as Alaska and the Aleutian Islands.

He said the birds were not the same species as those nesting on Muttonbird Island, which are wedge-tailed shearwaters and had already arrived.

Mr Orel said the veterinarian at Coffs Harbour’s Pet Porpoise Pool had ruled out any infection in the dead birds, saying the cause of death was starvation and weakness.

He said while such deaths occurred every year, the birds normally died at sea and it was unusual for them to be washed on to the beaches.

“They are one of the most numerous birds in the world and they migrate very long distances,” he said.

Coffs Harbour WIRES seabird carer Lynn Gow, who received 25 birds yesterday, is asking people who find any of the birds alive to bring them to WIRES.

“The majority will die – the ones who survive will be those above a certain weight, but people should not be upset – mutton birds have the second highest number of any bird species,” Ms Gow said.


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