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Dead shearwater birds a natural event

Media release: 21 November 2013

Dead and dying shearwater birds found washed up on Central Coast and Newcastle beaches recently, are the result of an unfortunate but natural event.

NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) Acting Regional Manager Alan Henderson said, recent wild weather there had been numerous reports of dead shearwaters (also known as muttonbirds) washed up on beaches along the coastline.

“Shearwaters migrate annually between nesting areas in the southern hemisphere and back to locations in the northern hemisphere with some birds covering up to 15,000 km,” Mr Henderson said.

“If they encounter severe weather, the weakest or oldest may succumb and eventually wash up on beaches like they have recently.

“This event is a natural occurrence, and every year along the east coast of Australia exhausted shearwaters succumb and wash ashore following their annual migration.

“Shearwaters are long-lived seabirds with individuals living up to 38 years old, but the long journey can take its toll and numbers of dead birds found dead on beaches can sometimes be well into the hundreds.”

“The species found have mostly been short tailed shearwater which are regarded as one of the most common species of bird in the world with the population believed to be in excess of 18 million.

Some of the mutton birds have been banded by researchers. Any one finding banded dead shearwater or any other banded seabird should report the band to the local NPWS office or contact the Australian Bird and Bat Banding scheme in Canberra; http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/science/abbbs/index.html

Contact: Lawrence Orel

Page last updated: 21 November 2013