JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has investigated reports of dead or distressed greater shearwaters and have concluded the birds' conditions are migration-related.
The FWC has responded to reports of more than 150 dead or distressed greater shearwaters, which is a gull-like bird.
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Researchers examined the birds, which washed up along Florida's east coast in Brevard, Indian River, St. Johns and Volusia counties. The researchers were able to conclude the deaths are related to stress from the long, trans-Atlantic migration.
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Greater shearwaters migrate from their primary breeding grounds in Tristan da Cunha, according to a news release from FWC. The group of islands is located off the southwest coast of Africa. The birds make the trip across the Atlantic to Canada, according to the Peterson Field Guide for Eastern Birds.
Dan Wolf, an FWC research biologist said, "This long migration, coupled with storms and high winds, can take its toll on some immature and older shearwaters, sapping their strength and making it difficult to feed. Upon examination of some of the dead greater shearwaters this week, we found the birds were young and emaciated, consistent with normal migration mortality."
Around this time each year, greater shearwaters suffer deaths related to migration. Each year, the number of birds killed varies. Roughly 1,000 birds died during the migratory season in 2007, the FWC said.
Reports of the dead and dying greater shearwaters washing ashore have been reported by ordinary people and wildlife rehabilitators from Vero Beach all the way north to Ponte Vedra Beach. Since the birds live the majority of their lives on the open sea, the birds only wash ashore when the winds are blowing inshore.
The FWC has a website set up so you can report a dead bird if you find one. The FWC asks anyone who encounters a dead or distressed bird to not handle it. They say you should contact a local wildlife rehabilitative facility instead.
First Coast News