The Department of Conservation has received numerous calls from people who have found exhausted seabirds blown off course.
Many titi (‘sooty shearwaters’ or ‘mutton birds’) have been unable to endure harsh weather conditions in Foveaux Strait as they migrate to the North Pacific, being blown inland as far as Edendale and Wyndham.
DOC Biodiversity Assets Ranger for Murihiku Area Sue Lake said it is quite normal for seabird fledglings to be found dead on beaches during the migration period. However poor food sources this season have led to a significant number of underweight titi being blown inland.
“Anyone who finds an exhausted seabird should try to release it at the nearest beach by placing it behind a log or somewhere it can get a bit of shelter. Some of these birds will recover in their own time but others are in such poor condition they will not survive,” Ms Lake said.
“Rehabilitation is not generally an option for seabirds, due to their special food and environmental requirements,” Ms Lake said. “If the bird is injured or an unusual breed it can be taken to DOC for staff to assess and manage its condition.”
Seabirds are protected under the Wildlife Act and dog owners should be particularly careful to ensure their dog does not harass any sick or injured seabirds.
DOC Pou Kura Taiao Manager Stephen Bragg said 'birding’ season on the Titi islands has also been impacted. “Titi have a great significance for iwi as they are a key asset for harvesting,” said Mr Bragg. “There is an expectation titi numbers will vary each year but this season is particularly poor so the number being harvested has reduced.”
An estimated 20 million titi live and breed on islands around Foveaux Strait and the Sub-Antarctic islands. Titi often travel in flocks of up to 500,000 birds, spending the winter in Sub-Arctic waters as far north as the Gulf of Alaska. The first breeding birds will arrive back in our southern oceans in September.