How will I recognise them?

They have a short tail with blackish brown feathers. Adult short-tailed shearwaters on average weigh 550 grams with a wingspan of one metre. They are often seen skimming along the water's surface at high speeds. Their beak is slender with a hook at the end to assist in catching their prey.

One metre wingspan! Can they fly fast?

With their long wingspan and narrow wings, they can fly as fast as 85 kilometres an hour. They are also excellent swimmers, diving as deep as 50 metres in search of prey such as krill.

Are they protected?

Yes. Short-tailed shearwaters are now a protected by state law and international treaty; the Japan and Australia Migratory Bird Agreement (JAMBA) and Victorian wildlife protection legislation.

Short-tailed shearwater (Puffinus tenuirostris), Port Fairy, Victoria
© CC BY 2.0 Ed Dunens / Wikicommons

Are there other threats to the shearwater colonies on Phillip Island?

Yes. Natural predators include Pacific gulls, ravens, swamp harriers, hawks, eagles and shearwater eggs are also sought after by silver gulls, lizards and snakes. A number of colonies have disappeared and populations have dropped dramatically due to farming, soil erosion, foxes, roaming dogs, feral cats and other introduced species.

Are they a migratory bird?

Yes. Short-tailed shearwaters are one of the few migratory birds that come to Australia to breed. They are one of 13 species of shearwater. On their migration flight pattern, the short-tailed shearwaters travel to many other places such as Antarctica, New Zealand, Siberia, Alaska, South America and Japan.

On Phillip Island, there are approximately one million short-tailed shearwaters that arrive each year around late September from the Aleutian Islands near Alaska. Most birds complete this spectacular migration of 15,000 km in eight weeks, yet a bird was once discovered to complete the trip in six weeks!

What can we do to help?

Please keep our beaches and oceans free of plastic by putting your rubbish in the bins.

Always keep to walking tracks around the breeding colonies as there maybe chicks inside the burrows close to the track.

Keep dogs and cats in at night. Drive cautiously at night and look out for road signs as short-tailed shearwaters are difficult to see on the roads.

Oh, the places they fly !

Check out this fascinating tracking study which shows the flight path of a group of 19 short-tailed shearwaters