Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Help reduce the global decline of Shearwaters by ‘Moving a Mutto’

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Suzie Christensen, Lord Howe Island Board, The Lord Howe Island Signal

It’s that time of year when young Shearwater birds emerge from their burrows on LHI. Like all teenagers, they can be awkward and a hazard to themselves when it comes to roads!

Flesh-footed Shearwaters, Wedge-tailed Shearwaters breeding pair.
Photos courtesy The Lord Howe Island Signal

Flesh-footed Shearwaters (Ardeena carneipes) and Wedge-tailed Shearwaters (Ardeena pacificus) breeding grounds are intersected by the Island roads, increasing the risk of juveniles being run over by cars and bikes. They are clumsy on land and attracted and disoriented by lights at night.

Shearwaters are in decline

Listed as a vulnerable species, Flesh-footed Shearwaters are in global decline. It takes both adults to provide sufficient food and successfully raise a chick. A single egg is laid per year, with pairs returning to the same burrow each time.

How can you help?

Drivers can protect young Shearwaters by slowing down around known nesting areas and taking the time to ‘shift a Shearwater’ or ‘Move a Mutto’ off the road. You can also help by turning off outdoor lights at home.

Recognising these magnificent seabirds

Shearwaters arrive on LHI in late August and start nesting in late November to early December.

Flesh-footed Shearwaters are blackish brown with fleshcoloured feet. Their large bills are straw coloured with a dark tip.

Wedge-tailed Shearwaters are the most visually diverse of the species, with a wide variety of bill colours and feathers. They tend to have longer and thinner bills than Flesh-footed Shearwaters. Look out for their longish, wedge-shaped tail! 

The Lord Howe Island Signal 31 May 2023

This article appeared in The Lord Howe Island Signal, 31 May 2023.


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