Bird of the month

Beach-washed Birds now on Birdata

Wednesday, 8 November 2023

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Beach-washed Birds now on Birdata

Monitoring seabirds washed up along Australia’s coastline

BirdLife Australia has just launched a new module on Birdata so you can record any seabirds that you find washed up on the beach. 

Citizen scientists can now select ‘Beach-washed Birds’ on Birdata to help us track the occurrence of seabird ‘wrecks’ – when large numbers of seabirds wash up dead or dying on our beaches. Wrecks often result from storms out at sea, which can cause seabirds to become exhausted or make it more difficult for them to find food. 

Seabird wrecks can also occur during periods of above-average sea surface temperatures, which affect the prey that seabirds rely on such as crustaceans, fish and squid), leading to starvation. These marine heatwaves are occurring more often, and are becoming more intense and more persistent around the world. The Bureau of Meteorology is predicting extreme sea surface temperatures off south-eastern Australia and Tasmania this spring and summer, making the launch of the ‘Beach-washed Birds’ module particularly timely. Recording the occurrence of seabird wrecks will help us to assess the impacts of extreme ocean temperatures on seabirds.  

Monitoring numbers of beach-washed seabirds is also critical for another reason: the potential for the highly contagious H5N1 strain of avian to reach Australia in the coming months. Seabirds are  particularly likely to be impacted, as their densely packed breeding colonies allow diseases to spread rapidly. Avian flu has already affected colonies of seabirds around much of the world, with many species of seabirds washing up sick or dead on coastlines. 

‘Beach-washed Birds’ on Birdata allows people to record seabird numbers, species and age (adults or juveniles), among other details. This will help provide a greater understanding of the extent and timing of seabird deaths, and assist in identifying which species and ages are most affected.  

Help us track the health of our seabird populations – download the Birdata app and keep an eye out next time you’re at the beach. 

Birdata’s ‘Beach-washed Birds’ module was developed in conjunction with the Australasian Seabird Group, with funding from BirdLife Australia’s community grants.  

 Note: It is critical that you do not handle any dead or sick birds – take only photographs for identification purposes. Oiled birds should be reported to your local National Parks branch.  

If you suspect birds may have been affected by Avian Influenza, contact the national Emergency Animal Disease Hotline on 1800 675 888. Infected birds may have swollen heads and blue discolouration of the neck and throat. Live birds may also exhibit neurological signs such as twitching or swimming in circles, respiratory distress such as a gaping beak, coughing, sneezing or gurgling, and diarrhoea.