FWC: Brevard County seabird deaths migration-related

FWC says at least 150 reported dead in coastal counties


BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. – Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officials say hundreds of seabirds reported dead appears to be migration related.

Local 6 reported earlier this week that more than 70 seabirds were rescued from Brevard and Indian River County beaches.

After examining some of the birds, researchers believe these deaths are related to stress from the species' long, trans-Atlantic migration, FWC officials said in a release.

"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," said Dan Wolf, an FWC research biologist. "Upon examination of some of the dead greater shearwaters this week, we found the birds were young and emaciated, consistent with normal migration mortality."

Sue Small, director of Florida Wildlife Hospital and Sanctuary in Palm Shores, said the majority of the rescued birds are Great Shearwater seabirds.

Small said they took in two seabirds on Saturday, three on Sunday and then they started flooding in on Monday.

She said some die every year due to bad weather, but usually not this many. She said it's timing. The birds migrate past Florida in June and July and if the weather is bad, some won't survive.

"The weaker ones are not able to fight the wind and the waves and they end up washing into the beaches," Small said.

Last year she said one or two seabirds were brought into the hospital. The year before that, there were a couple dozen.

FWC said in 2007, researchers received reports of about 1,000 dead shearwaters during the migratory season.

Greater shearwaters migrate from their primary breeding grounds in Tristan da Cunha, a group of islands off the southwest coast of Africa, across the Atlantic to Canada, according to the Peterson Field Guide for Eastern Birds, according to the release.