Florida Fish and Wildlife: More than 150 birds found dead on Central Florida beaches

Environmental /

Birds galore in New Smyrna Beach

These young gals feed birds on beach of New SmyrnaBirds on New Smyrna BeachHeadline Surfer photos by Sera Frederick / These photos, taken in 2008 on New Smyrna Beach, are indicative of the array of birds on the beaches of Central Florida.

NEW SMYRNA BEACH -- Researchers with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission have received reports of more than 150 dead or distressed greater shearwaters, gull-like birds, along Florida’s east coast in Brevard, Indian River, St. Johns and Volusia counties this week.

After examining some of the birds, researchers believe these deaths are related to stress from the species’ long, trans-Atlantic migration.

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.

“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.”

Birds are a typical sight over the sand and surf of New Smyrna Beach.

Migration-related deaths of greater shearwaters occur every year around this time, though the number varies.

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

Since Monday, citizens and wildlife rehabilitators from Vero Beach north to Ponte Vedra have reported finding these dead birds in areas along the shoreline.

Because greater shearwaters live most of their lives on the open sea, the deaths are only seen alongshore when winds are blowing inshore. The public can report dead birds to the FWC online at MyFWC.com/Bird. Anyone who encounters a dead or distressed bird is asked not to handle it. For assistance with sick or injured birds, citizens should contact a local wildlife rehabilitative facility.

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Henry Frederick is publisher of Headline Surfer®, the award-winning 24/7 internet newspaper serving the Daytona Beach-Orlando metro area via HeadlineSurfer.com, launched April 7, 2008, as Florida's first around-the-clock online newspaper. Frederick is among the Sunshine State's most experienced reporters with scores of regional, state & national journalism-industry awards for nearly 100 breaking news & investigative reporting stories in Florida, New York, Massachusetts & Connecticut. The first of Frederick's three books, "Creepy Ass Cracker" (842 pages, Xlibris), hits bookstores in October 2015. The second book, "Wrestling ReWind is scheduled for publication in December 2015. The third book, "The Day NASCAR Died: 15th Anniversary of Dale Earnhardt's death in the Daytona 500," is planned for publication in February 2016.
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