Shearwaters (mutton birds) are medium sized seabirds which migrate each Spring southward to their breeding grounds in Tasmania and Antarctica. They travel enormous distances without landing and are subject to the variations of the weather. Extreme weather conditions can blow them completely off course. The long migration requires enormous amounts of energy and unfortunately many birds each year suffer from starvation and exhaustion. Some years, literally thousands of these birds can be found along our coastline – dead or dying. There is, unfortunately, usually nothing that can be done to save the birds once they have collapsed although it is certainly distressing to see so many birds suffering, Scientists believe this is an example of the cycle of life and of natural selection.
If you find injured birds on the beach, particularly if there are a number of them present, they are most likely Shearwaters. It is best to leave the birds alone or gently move them beyond the reach of the tide so they won’t drown. Most will die despite any form of intervention due to starvation and exhaustion. A trip to the veterinarian will usually be too stressful for the bird.
If you are unsure of the bird’s species, please contact 1300 ANIMAL, your local veterinarian or wildlife group for advice.