NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service rangers checking bait stations on Muttonbird Island.
NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service rangers checking bait stations on Muttonbird Island.

Rats just part of the problem for this iconic seabird

WITH shearwaters away on their annual migration authorities will take the opportunity to review rodent management on Muttonbird Island.

In a Letter to the Editor to The Advocate reader Neil Vaughan was highly critical of the National Parks and Wildlife Service's management of the birds over the past 10 years.

"Where has the NPWS been? Since 2010 there have been many staff cuts, funding cuts and lots of staff changes. The island has come off second best and the birds are still facing a grim future,” he asked.

"It seems that some influential people are still advocating that the rats are not a serious problem.

Mr Vaughan is one of several passionate volunteer bird banders and 'community scientists' who work with the NPWS to protect the seabirds on the island.

The Office of Environment and Heritage insists the management of Muttonbird Island remains a priority of NPWS staff, but point out there are a raft of environmental threats and other pressures on the population of shearwaters there.

These include the continuing drought, loss of food resources, and climate change, as well as the island being attached to the mainland which provides a link for pests.

Consequently, the NPWS admits that breeding success on the island has varied over time with success influenced by not just impacts from pests but also the availability of food resources for the parents to feed chicks, and the stability of burrows which are greatly impacted by drought conditions.

"The NPWS is continually reviewing its management activities on the island and is already looking to undertake a rodent monitoring program over winter while the shearwaters are away on their annual migration.

"This will inform our future rodent baiting program and the locations where baiting needs to be focussed,” an OEH spokesperson said.

NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service rangers checking bait stations on Muttonbird Island.
NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service rangers checking bait stations on Muttonbird Island.

Muttonbird Island is home to thousands of wedge-tailed shearwaters, so called for their ability to cut or shear the water with their wings as they skim across the surface.

Early settlers called them 'Muttonbirds' because of their fatty mutton-like flesh.

They spend the Australian winter in southeast Asia, travelling back to Muttonbird Island in August each year.

The island is a sacred and significant site to the local Gumbaynggirr Aboriginal people, who call it 'Giidany Miirlarl', meaning moon sacred place.

The moon is the island's protector, guarding the Muttonbirds as a food source and protecting them from over-harvesting.

Amazingly, the birds return to the same burrow every year.

A pair of birds share the responsibility of keeping one single egg warm, and then share the raising of their chick.

During the day they forage for food and return to their burrow just after dusk.

They depart on their annual migration in late April every year.



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