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Southern Giant Petrel rescued in eastern Sydney

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

This is a white phase Southern Giant Petrel, Macronectes giganteus. The bird was found ashore at Clovelly side of Gordon's Bay on the rocks exhausted, late on Saturday afternoon the 3rd August 2019 by local residents, Greg and Janine. Greg and his wife took the bird to Sydney Veterinary Emergency & Specialists in Rosebery. The veterinary staff on duty consulted Taronga Wildlife Hospital and administered necessary fluids to rehydrate the exhausted animal as first aid. The bird was then picked up by local WIRES East branch volunteer Michaela Sukopova. It did not take long for the bird to start showing signs of feeling better. Michaela subsequently called SOSSA to properly identify the species and for consultation on how to best house and care for the bird overnight until it could be taken into rehabilitation.

This Southern Giant Petrel was collected from Michaela by another WIRES volunteer Pauline Duncan who transported it to Wollongong on Sunday for assessment, as the Taronga Wildlife Hospital where SOSSA would normally send such birds for rehabilitation was closed due the late hour. Such birds need specialised care and housing.

This bird is now in the care of another volunteer for Wildlife Rescue and SOSSA, Betty Spilsted, a very capable and experienced seabird rehabilitator who just loves anything unusual. Betty asked the SOSSA seabird expert Lindsay Smith OAM. for advice. On inspection, Lindsay was confident that this magnificent white Southern Giant Petrel was at a good weight with no injuries and it will be fine to be released in the next couple of days.
The white phase of the Southern Giant Petrel is very rare in our local waters. The nearest breeding grounds of this species is on Australia’s sub-Antarctic Macquarie Island at latitude 54°30' South, longitude 158 56' East, approximately 2370 kilometres from Sydney. Only approximately 5% of the population are of this white phase, whereas the rest of the population is of the far more abundant dark brown phase.

This young bird is most likely a juvenile, which would have fledged from the breeding grounds some time between late April and mid May. At approximately 115 days of age this would make it her maiden voyage! Most immature birds remain at sea for about four to five years before returning to land to breed at 6-8 years of age.

Young birds from Macquarie Island have been recovered as far east as the west coast of South America, others may go on to circumnavigate the Antarctic continent.

The local Water Police were happy to assist with the transport and release on Tuesday afternoon 6th August 2019 at 1.30 pm. Regards and thanks to all as this proves that working together and the networking really does pay off!


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