FLEDGLING HELP: Members of the public can assist WIRES volunteers in the care of migrating Muttonbirds
FLEDGLING HELP: Members of the public can assist WIRES volunteers in the care of migrating Muttonbirds Wendy Andrews

Feathers in a flap over first flight

THERE are some vulnerable little locals who will need our help this month.

Wedge-Tailed Shearwater fledglings or, as they are commonly known Muttonbirds, are about to leave their burrows on Muttonbird Island for their first migration north.

Adult birds depart from early April leaving behind the young birds still covered in down. From this time until early May the chicks do not eat at all. They rapidly lose weight and acquire their flight feathers.

The young will spend an increasing amount of time outside the burrow, slowly moving closer to the shore and exercising their wings. Two to three weeks after the parents have left, the young birds begin their migratory flight unassisted by experienced birds.

The departing fledglings are meant to follow the light of the moon out to sea but many become distracted by the lights of the city and fly west. This first flight often lands them in big trouble.

"Once they land they cannot lift off again without being in an elevated position such as on Muttonbird Island,” said Jenny Eather from WIRES.

"They become sitting targets for cars and foxes.”

The fledglings have been located as far west as Bellingen, however the most common landing spots over the past few years have been The Deep Sea Fishing Club, Coffs Harbour Marina area, Harbour Drive and Park Beach.

WIRES volunteers will patrol these areas nightly during the next three weeks but they need help.

"The Muttonbird fledglings cannot fend for themselves and WIRES ask that anyone finding an exhausted or injured Muttonbird to follow our rescue tips.”

WIRES volunteers will be collecting birds twice a day from the designated drop off points and members of the public are invited to assist in carrying the birds each afternoon to the top of Muttonbird Island.

To be involved meet the WIRES volunteers at the base of the Island 4.45pm daily.



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