Shift a Shearwater, move a Mutto – and turn off the lights!
It’s that time of year when Shearwater young emerge from their burrows. And like all teenagers, they can be a bit of a danger to themselves on the road!
The two species of shearwater that breed near roads on LHI are the Flesh-footed Shearwater, Ardeena carneipes and Wedge-tailed Shearwater, Ardeena pacificus (images below). Both are often found run over where their nesting colonies are dissected by roads.
Shearwaters are clumsy on land and are disorientated and startled by lights. Even attempting to drive around or over them at low speed can result in them being killed.
Drivers can reduce unnecessary deaths to Shearwaters by simply slowing down around known nesting areas and by taking the time to ‘Shift a Shearwater or Move a Mutto’ off the road.
Outdoor lights can also disorient and attract shearwaters – so turning yours off at this time of the year also helps. You might get a better night’s sleep too!
Shearwaters commence breeding from 5-8 years of age. They arrive on LHI in late August and start nesting in late November/early December. A single egg is laid per year in a burrow 0.2m to 3m in length, with pairs returning to the same burrow each year. It takes both adults to successfully raise a chick. If one parent dies, the chick is likely to die due to lack of food.
Flesh-footed Shearwaters are listed as a vulnerable species in global decline. Ensuring that every nesting pair has the best potential to fledge young on LHI is an important step in reducing the global decline of these magnificent seabirds (which are able to dive 60 m in search of prey). Their future is in our hands!
Chief Executive Officer
Date: 4 May 2022