Thursday, April 19, 2012

Muttonbird rescue begins: end April

April is the month that marks the end of the mutton bird breeding cycle. On April 18 the adult birds leave Phillip Island to fly on their migration flight to the Bering Sea, where they'll spend time feasting on krill before making a return flight back to Phillip Island.

The mutton bird chicks are left behind to replace their fluffy grey down with adult plumage, and then learn to fly. During the time that the young birds are learning to fly, people on the island are asked to take special care, especially on the roads at night. The birds are attracted to and then become disoriented by street lights and the San Remo bridge lights. Therefore, the lights on the bridge are turned off during the peak of the young bird's departure.

Phillip Island Nature Park staff and a team of volunteers patrol areas where the birds crash-land on roads, particularly around Surf Beach and near the Penguin Parade. Many hundreds of birds have been saved from roads as they attempt to fly. At the end of April the young birds depart, following the same migration flight as their parents, to Alaska and the Bering Sea.

17 million mutton birds (Short-tailed shearwaters) leave their breeding islands in southern Australia every April, to make an amazing migration round trip of around 25,000 km.

Every April, we too depart on our migration flight to Mitchell, in outback Queensland.

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