Strange bird behaviour at Weipa

To: "birding-aus" <>
Subject: Strange bird behaviour at Weipa
From: "Alan Gillanders" <>
Date: Tue, 29 Jan 2013 07:46:13 +1000
Greetings from beautiful Yungaburra, 

I received this interesting missive about Oswald related bird behaviour and was 
wondering if someone on this list could help out.


I was wondering if your organisation could give me some help in explaining an 
unusual bird behaviour that I observed during the worst part of Cyclone Oswald 
up here in Weipa last week please?

I am currently working on the Schergher RAAF Base approximately 40 kms east of 
Weipa and on the Sunday 20th at around 11.00pm I observed literally thousands 
of medium sized birds circling our illuminated basketball court.  The birds 
were later  identified as Bridled Terns with a sprinkiling of cockatoos.  These 
birds manically circled our centre in about a 100 metre radius with the wind 
gusts often blowing them into each other until disappearing at day break.  The 
next night being the eve of Tuesday the 22nd (and by far our worst night of our 
storm) they were back at nightfall again continuing their manic circling until 
around  3.00am when they began falling randomly out of the sky and in large 
numbers into our flooded compound where a group of men often  waded thru thigh 
high deep flooding to rescue 224 of the fallen birds that were too exhaused to 
fly anymore.  I tried releasing a few after a few hours but theyt would barely 
get off the ground, bank to the side and crash la
 nd where we would grab them and put them back into our shelter again. We dried 
them off the best we could thermally and gave them shelter until transferring 
them to a local wildlife refuge for release during the day on Tuesday.  
Fortunately we only couldn't save a reported 4 of them but the rest were 
released without incident later that day.  Haven't seen them since.  Is there a 
name for this behaviour, what causes it and is it common because I have never 
seen anything like it?  Straight out of Hitchcock movie lol. 

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