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Posted on 08/05/2020 by Phillip Island Nature Parks

Favourable winds help the Shearwaters on their way

This season’s annual migration of Short-tailed shearwaters has been helped along by a couple of very windy weekends, and it would appear that most of the fledglings have now left Phillip Island, bound for Alaska.

It seems quite fitting that their 16,000km journey to the Aleutian Islands off Alaska will be very much in progress on World Migratory Bird Day on Saturday 9 May.

After their late arrival from the Northern Hemisphere raised some concerns, researchers report that the birds bounced back with a successful breeding season.

“In summary, we recorded more chicks than last season and they are in good condition with really good body weights,” said Phillip Island Nature Parks Deputy Research Director, Dr Duncan Sutherland who recently visited the colony with his team.

“We thought that the overall season may be running a little later than average. Of course, fledging is mostly associated with strong wind events, so we had some leave in late April with a second, final wave mostly over a gusty weekend in early May,” Dr Sutherland said.

Phillip Island Nature Parks once again implemented their Shearwater Rescue program in partnership with Bass Coast Shire Council, Regional Roads Victoria, SP Ausnet and the local community.

This program helps the shearwaters to take off safely by turning off the lights on the San Remo bridge, lowering speed limits and placing advisory signage for motorists during the peak of departure. Since the inception of this program in 1999, thousands of birds have been saved from the roads as they attempt to fly.

The collaborative program recently featured in a global case study about the effects of Australia’s artificial light pollution on wildlife. Nature Parks scientists contributed to the Light Pollution Guidelines for Wildlife including Marine Turtles, Seabirds and Migratory Shorebirds which raise awareness and provide a framework of best practice lighting design and management to ensure fledgling seabirds such as Phillip Island’s Short-Tailed Shearwaters are able to take their first flights safely.

About Short-Tailed Shearwaters:
Short-Tailed shearwaters arrive on Phillip Island in September and spend the summer raising their single chick in a sand dune burrow. They undertake one of the most incredible migrations, flying approximately 16,000km to feed near Alaska during our winter. We now know that adults begin their migration in early April first heading south to feed in Antarctic waters before flying north. The fledglings leave about three weeks later with no apparent guidance. Many of these birds are killed each year on the roads at night, particularly where there are vehicles or street lights. Shearwater Rescue is an initiative to reduce these deaths.

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