Muttonbird chicks will be learning to fly soon in preparation for their annual migration.
Muttonbird chicks will be learning to fly soon in preparation for their annual migration.

Young muttonbirds to leave nest

A GROUP of Coffs Harbour youngsters are preparing to leave home for the very first time on what will also be their first big trip overseas.

National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) ranger Ann Walton said Coffs Harbour’s shearwater or muttonbird fledglings born on Muttonbird Island are preparing to leave the only home they know, a small nest burrow on the island.

Between now and the next full moon the chicks start leaving their nest burrows to begin exercising their wings in preparation their 10,000-kilometre round trip to South-East Asia.

“Using the light of the full moon fledglings will be starting to leave around Anzac Day, and are not expect back until August,” Ms Walton said.

“The fledglings leaving the island instinctively seek out the light of the horizon and can easily be confused by Coffs Harbour’s lights.

“To help out the birds, lighting can be reduced, shielded or changed to orange or preferably green over the next two weeks.

“Light reduction is most important during the dark nights around the new moon and cloudy conditions.

“At these times they all too often they become road fatalities or are attacked by pets.

“They need help to get started again as their very long wings make it almost impossible for them to take-off from flat ground.

“If a muttonbird fledgling is found wandering the streets of Coffs Harbour there are a few basic tips to rescue the animal.”

Approach quietly from behind; Encircle body and wings with a towel, keeping clear of the beak; place in a cardboard box in a quiet location out of the sun; Do not feed the bird or give water for the short period before they are released; call WIRES or deliver to the NPWS office at Coffs Marina.

“Rescuers are asked not to try and release the bird themselves as it requires a special technique to ensure the safety of the bird," Ms Walton said.

Ms Walton said the eight-hectare island is a nature reserve managed by the NPWS.

"Muttonbird Island is one of the largest and most significant breeding sites for wedge-tailed shearwaters in NSW.

“Unfortunately fledgling numbers are down this year as the birds, like the rest of Coffs Harbour, have been greatly affected by the wet conditions.”



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