MUTTON birds making an epic journey from northern Russia to rookeries in Victoria and South Australia are washing up dead on Fraser Coast beaches.
The birds migrate annually and although failures are expected, the number of deaths this year in 2013 has surprised conservationists.
Tony Bussey, husband of Wildlife Preservation Society Fraser Coast chapter president Carolyn Bussey, recently returned from a trip to Fraser Island, a trip he's made regularly for 40 years.
Ms Bussey said the number of dead mutton birds, otherwise known as short-tailed shearwaters, he saw on the island's beaches outnumbered those of previous years.
"Tony said there were hundreds washed up on Fraser Island, dying and dead," Ms Bussey said.
"He was on the island last week. He was born in Bundaberg and has been going for many years and he said he's never seen them like that."
Birdwatchers of Hervey Bay co-ordinator John Knight said strong winds and a lack of food could have contributed to the deaths.
A Department of Environment and Heritage Protection spokesman said thousands of short-tailed shearwaters were found dead around Moreton Bay in 2011 and Fraser Island in 2006.
"The short-tailed shearwaters or mutton birds are on their annual migration ... the birds can succumb to exhaustion along the way and EHP has received reports of the birds being found on Queensland beaches," the representative said.
"This may mean more birds could wash up along the coast for the next few months.
"Anyone who finds a dead bird on a beach is advised, as a precaution, not to handle it."