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Dark sky so shearwaters fly

To protect about 700,000 short-tailed shearwater chicks as they embark on their first ever migration, Phillip Island Nature Parks has partnered with various stakeholder groups and local community as part of the Shearwater Rescue Program.
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The short-tailed shearwater great migration is underway. Short-tailed shearwaters are mid-sized migratory birds, and one of just a few that come to Australia to breed. These birds - also known as mutton-birds - travel around the world, migrating each year north from Australia up to Japan, then via Siberia to the north of Alaska. They manage this massive 16,000km round-trip in under four weeks, all before returning to our shores.

They spend their time around Australia’s southern coastline, renovating past nests and building new ones. The breeding pairs lay just one egg. In April, the adult shearwater birds begin their trip back up north to Alaska, leaving behind their young chicks to finish growing their adult feathers and learning to fly before following their migration a few weeks later.

During this time, this species and its adorable young chicks need all the help from the community they can get. Phillip Island Nature Parks has partnered with Bass Coast Shire Council, Department of Transport and Planning, AusNet, WE-EF Lighting, the Victorian Ornithological Research Group and the local community as part of the Shearwater Rescue Program.

Why do we need community action during the short-tailed shearwater migration?

Now on their own, the chicks grow their adult feathers and start to learn how to fly. During this time of training, they often end up on roads around Phillip Island (Millowl), attracted to streetlights and the flat road surface - perhaps mistaking them for the moon on the water.

This is why we kindly ask residents and businesses to please turn off their outdoor lights at night and reduce speed on the roads. This can help to stop attracting young shearwaters to dangerous roads and human-inhabited areas, and help you avoid hitting one if you come across them on the road.

Should you hit a short-tailed shearwater on the road, it can also create an additional hazard for motorists. These birds are very oily, which can make the road slippery and dangerous for drivers.

Phillip Island Nature Parks is putting a dedicated team of rangers to work, patrolling the roads and rescuing wayward birds to help minimise this risk, but we also ask that those in the community help by keeping an eye out for these birds.

If you are not visiting or a local resident, you can still contribute to this vital conservation work by supporting this fascinating species through a shearwater adoption from the Penguin Foundation. Please click here to learn more and make a symbolic adoption today. Thank you for your support.

To read all about the shearwater flight path and watch informative videos, please visit the Phillip Island Nature Parks shearwater great migration page.

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