A possibly related article in today's Age:
Muttonbirds are dying in their thousands nearly every year and much more
frequently than ever before, washing up on the coast from Coffs Harbour to
On South Melbourne and Port Melbourne beaches on Wednesday beach cleaning
contractor David Martinez picked up more than 150 short-tailed shearwater
birds, a species of muttonbird. One day last week, he picked up a similar
At Lord Howe Island this month, 200 shearwater birds washed up for the first
time in many years, Monash University seabird biologist Jennifer Lavers said.
These deaths en masse, known as "wrecks", have been reported along the coast
from Coffs Harbour to Tasmania, she said.
The short-tailed shearwater birds migrate 10,000 kilometres from the Bering
Sea, between Alaska and Japan, to Australian shores in late September to nest.
Dr Lavers said they have eaten little on their journey and are exhausted by the
She said it was normal for wrecks to occur every 10 years, and this usually
indicated a particularly "poor year" for the birds with storms or no fish
available on arrival. However, major wrecks had occurred every second year
since 2007, pointing to a wider problem, she said.
"We need to start asking the question of what is going on in the marine
environment," Dr Lavers said.
"This isn't just a hiccough. This isn't just a freak event. It is not just that
the fish have decided to relocate themselves for one or two years or three
years. This is obviously an indication of a much wider problem."
Dr Lavers said the birds started washing up on the beach in late September. By
this time, the female birds are often carrying their only egg for the year and
journey to sea to hunt for food with breeding males. Dr Lavers hypothesised
that they may have failed to find fish and this may have contributed to the
"You don't want to lose your adult breeders. It spells trouble for species,"
Department of Environment and Primary Industries senior biodiversity officer
Mandy Watson said in a statement that the feed available in the northern summer
could affect the birds' journey as well as storms.
"Stormy weather and strong winds make it difficult for birds if they are
already in poor condition from the long migration and this can be enough to
cause their death," Ms Watson said.
"It is common for large numbers of short-tailed shearwaters not to make it."
Dr Lavers agreed that weather could play a role.
"Heavy winds will do great things to them, but is it just the wind? I would say
no," she said.
Weather bureau forecaster Andrea Peace confirmed that Melbourne Airport wind
records since 1971 show October had been the equal windiest month on record,
based on average winds. The average wind speed was 23 km/h for the month.
Dr Lavers said there were many bird rescue groups in Melbourne and advised
untrained beachgoers not to touch them. She said that even after a long journey
they were often "feisty" and could leave bloody gashes on hands and arms.
Ms Watson said all native wildlife was protected in Victoria. "Because of the
risk of being bitten or any disease the birds may carry unqualified people
should avoid handling the birds if possible," she said.
Anyone who sees sick or injured wildlife is advised to call the department on
136 138 or RACV Wildlife Connect on 13 1111.
Sent from my iPad
> On 30 Oct 2013, at 2:57 pm, "Chris Sanderson" <>
> Hi Philip,
> I know someone that has autopsied quite a few Short-tailed Shearwaters that
> have been wrecked and they have all had some plastic in their gut, though
> this doesn't prove a link between their death and the plastic.
> On Wed, Oct 23, 2013 at 6:35 PM, Philip Veerman <>wrote:
>> This has always happened. Do you know if they are also vulnerable to eating
>> plastic rubbish? As are some other sea birds. If so, surely that would
>> drastically increase the natural problems of being exhausted and
>> underweight. If they are found dead, this could be investigated or maybe
>> already has been............. I don't know.
>> -----Original Message-----
>> On Behalf Of Janine Duffy
>> Sent: Wednesday, 23 October 2013 3:42 PM
>> To: Birding-aus
>> Subject: [Birding-Aus] more dead Short-tailed Shearwaters
>> There are several dead or dying Short-tailed Shearwaters on my local beach,
>> Port Melbourne. I have one in care right now (weight 420g). There are
>> about 20 near shore, still alive and swimming, but probably exhausted and
>> underweight. I was on Kerferd Rd pier earlier watching them, and on a whim
>> asked the nearby fisherman for a fish scrap. I threw it to the nearest
>> shearwater, which took it readily.
>> I don't know if this is appropriate or not, but is it worth trying to
>> prevent a few deaths by looking out for exhausted but still living birds
>> near piers or boats and offering food (fish)? Surely these still living
>> birds have the best chance of recovery - waiting until they wash up and
>> rushing them to overworked wildlife carers is a bit like closing the door
>> after the horse has bolted.
>> Also, could Vic birders check their local beaches for beach-washed, still
>> living birds? They are vulnerable to dog attack if left on the beach. A
>> cardboard box with a towel is a good transport option. Take to local
>> wildlife carer, or vet. Call wildlife victoria 13 000 94535 or Aware
>> (Frankston area) on 0412 433 727 .
>> JANINE DUFFY Director Marketing ECHIDNA WALKABOUT PO Box 370 Port
>> Victoria 3207 AUSTRALIA
>> E: Web: www.echidnawalkabout.com.au
>> Ph: +61 (0)3 9646 8249 Mob: +61 (0)427 808 747 Fax: +61 (0)3 9681 9177
>> OPERATIONS & GROUP enquiries contact: Roger
>> <> Smith
>> <> Director Operations A.B.N. 72 716
>> 985 505
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