Mutton birds fail to make flight

OUT to sea on the Sunshine Coast, an epic river of flight is wheeling its way south on the great annual mutton bird migration.

But like every great surge of nature, some of these long-distance fliers are starting to drop from the skies and wash up on beaches along Sunshine Coast and Moreton Bay islands.

Biosecurity Queensland test results on several short-tailed shearwaters, otherwise known as mutton birds, which have fallen victim to their non-stop mass migration from Russia to rookeries in Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania, may be available today.

The Department of Environment and Resource Management believes the birds were probably suffering from exhaustion after encountering bad weather along the way.

“A similar event occurred five years ago when short-tailed shearwater birds were found deceased around Fraser Island,” a DERM spokesman said.

“Tests at that time confirmed they died from emaciation and starvation as a consequence of the migration.”

He said more than a million migratory birds travelled thousands of kilometres to and from Australia each year.

Coast migratory bird enthusiast Jill Dening said mass deaths usually were weather and starvation related and were nothing to be alarmed about.

“They fly by in their millions. It’s like a river of birds and it’s nature’s way of sorting out the strongest,” she said.



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