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Posted on 08/10/2019 by Phillip Island Nature Parks

Shearwaters have made their way home to Phillip Island 

The Short-tailed Shearwaters have started appearing back on their summertime home of Phillip Island after their 12,000km journey from their northern hemisphere feeding grounds near Alaska.

Short-tailed Shearwaters, also known locally as ‘Muttonbirds’, normally nest on islands where they are safe from predators and human disturbance.

“Phillip Island hosts one of the largest breeding populations of the birds in Australia, with up to 1,500,000 calling the island home over recent summers,” said Dr Duncan Sutherland, Deputy Research Director with Phillip Island Nature Parks.

“It’s quite amazing that these birds undertake this long and arduous journey in such large numbers, and manage to return to their colonies around the same time each year, normally around the end of September. This year they kept us waiting until early October, but it’s great to see them back and in good health”

In some years, the journey takes its toll, and the birds arrive underweight and exhausted from their long flight, so some birds may die and wash up on beaches right along the east coast of Australia.

“The birds will now spend much of their time feeding locally, and clearing out and renovating their burrows, which can be up to 1 metre long. As the burrows are vulnerable to destruction from trampling, it’s important for visitors to Phillip Island to stick to the tracks, and enjoy watching these birds from a distance.

The Short-tailed Shearwaters will continue to forage in waters around Antarctica and return to Phillip Island to raise a single chick until, towards the end of April, the young birds are strong enough to begin the spectacular flight back to Alaska.



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