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Byron Shire
February 27, 2021

Dead seabirds litter Byron coastline

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Dead shearwaters on South Golden Beach on October 16. Photo contributed
Dead shearwaters on South Golden Beach on October 16. Photo contributed

Eve Jeffery

Sections of the the Australian coastline are currently littered with the bodies of dead or dying seabirds as the annual migration of shearwaters continues.

Each year the creatures, also known as mutton birds, travel from the colder regions of the northern hemisphere from as far as Siberia and Alaska to more southern parts of Australia to nest.

The flight is a long and arduous journey and only the fittest survive. Ocean conditions along the flight path have a direct effect on the health and stamina of the birds on arrival and every year there are thousands washed ashore on our beaches.

This year shearwaters have had to contend with severe storm conditions across Asia and possibly a larger number than usual are showing up on the shoreline, or in more condensed numbers. These birds have died from sheer exhaustion.

Bird lovers can rest assured that, though it is sad to see so many distressed and dying animals, this is a natural, annual phenomenon.

Generally shearwaters who wash ashore will not survive, even when taken into care.

Beach walkers are asked to not make their suffering any worse by allowing their dogs to harass the creatures.

Some shearwaters have been banded for research purposes. Members of the public are ask to report any dead banded shearwaters to the National Parks and Wildlife Service.

Phone 6627 0200 for more information.

Dead shearwaters on South Golden Beach. Photo contributed
Dead shearwaters on South Golden Beach. Photo contributed

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  1. Thank you for putting this information together. My daughter and I were very distressed to see so many dead birds on our walk along South Golden Beach this afternoon. At least we now know it’s part of the natural cycle and not more despicable waste of life caused by Human stupidity/ greed.

  2. Thanks for putting the photos and article on the mutton birds. Its very sad but good to know what happened. I saw many of them yesterday on a walk from Fern Beach to South Golden Beach. I’ll watch out for tags/bands on this evening’s walk.

  3. I’m sorry but I could never ‘rest assured’ that this is a natural phenomena and therefore it’s okay to let them die and that ‘generally they don’t survive if taken into care’. What if 1 in 10 do survive, isn’t it worth at least trying to help them?

    If they were humans people would be rushing out to give them the best care possible. But oh no, they are only birds and this is somehow okay for them to be dying all over the place and we should just walk by!

  4. i saw 50 dead birds on byron beach, just near capt cook’s carpark. there were more.

    i am not convinced that this natural phenomena is the cause of so many dead birds. more than i have seen before.

    perhaps it is unnatural weather patterns that we have created?

    RIP birds

  5. It was sad to see over 30 dead birds in a 200m stretch of Belongil Beach. Good to know the background. If the ones that wash ashore are so severely exhausted there may be little point in trying to help them, besides making oneself feel better. But aren’t the severe weather conditions in Asia connected to Global Warming, not to mention overfishing by humans depleting the birds’ natural food source. We are far from totally innocent as a species.

  6. There are hundreds of them washed up along Stockton beach, north of Newcastle. most are well dead, however, there are the occasional one or two still alive at the waters edge. With this hot weather they have really started to stink.

  7. Shouldn’t the authorities be collecting the dead birds and clearing them away as they are becoming a health hazard for children, dogs and beach goers on many popular beaches and also because they are stinking while they are decaying and being repeatedly washed up and down the beach by the tides?

  8. They are amazing birds and excellent indicators of what is happening on our planet. Heartbreaking that they seem to be almost impossible to save once they reach this stage of exhaustion, but there are some wildlife rehabilitators and vets who will keep trying so save individuals, and may yet be able to develop successful protocols. As the North Pacific is a feeding ground I wonder if radioactive contamination from Japan has affected fish stocks there. I’ve heard mention of huge dead zones.


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