Mo­torists mow down baf­fled birds

Marlborough Express - - PEOPLE - PIPPA BROWN

Birds baf­fled by the bad weather have been crash-land­ing on Kaiko¯ura’s roads, only to be run over by early morn­ing com­muters.

About a dozen Hut­ton’s shear­wa­ters were splat­tered over Beach Rd on Mon­day morn­ing, much to the hor­ror of some res­i­dents.

The rare seabirds use the stars and moon to nav­i­gate, but the re­cent patch of cloudy, wet weather had them off course.

Kaiko¯ura Wildlife Res­cue man­ager Sab­rina Leucht said the birds likely got dis­ori­en­tated by the street lights and crash-landed on the road.

The Hut­ton’s Shear­wa­ters pop­u­la­tion was al­ready in de­cline af­ter last year’s earth­quake dam­aged their breed­ing colonies in the Sea­ward moun­tain range above Kaiko¯ura.

They were the only se­abird in the world to breed in an alpine en­vi­ron­ment.

Signs were nor­mally put out around Kaiko¯ura in March and April, when young birds were fledg­ling, so peo­ple knew to watch out for them.

Leucht said the town needed per­ma­nent signs, es­pe­cially at crash-land­ing hot spots, such as the Es­planade and Beach Rd.

Judy Jarvis was on her way to work when she saw the squashed birds, and at first thought they were seag­ulls.

‘‘It’s quite sad be­cause there were loads of birds - at least a dozen - it was hor­ri­fy­ing.’’

She didn’t know how ef­fec­tive signs would be, be­cause this was ‘‘an odd time of the year for it to hap­pen’’, but thought peo­ple needed to be ed­u­cated about the birds, es­pe­cially new peo­ple in town so they could be more care­ful.

‘‘A lot of time peo­ple don’t see them there be­cause they are the same colour as the road and they are just sit­ting there.’’ Mike Mor­risey, De­part­ment of Con­ser­va­tion ranger

Hut­ton’s Shear­wa­ter Char­i­ta­ble Trust chair­man Ted Howard said adult birds did not nor­mally crash, but fledg­ling birds were known to lose their way as they started their an­nual mi­gra­tion to Aus­tralia.

Peo­ple were asked to be vig­i­lant of crash-landed birds, known as fall­out, and to dim or turn off out­side lights and keep cats in­doors at night.

‘‘Ob­vi­ously last night there were a lot of adults that came down with the low cloud and fog and got run over by the early morn­ing traf­fic.

‘‘When the roads are wet they look like wa­ter to the birds so the roads at­tract the birds to land on it think­ing it is wa­ter.’’

He said the birds had no traf­fic sense and would not get out of the way. They would have to be picked up and moved.

De­part­ment of Con­ser­va­tion ranger Mike Mor­risey said warn­ing signs would be put up on Beach Rd this week.

‘‘A lot of time peo­ple don’t see them there be­cause they are the same colour as the road and they are just sit­ting there.

‘‘If peo­ple are aware of it they may be able to avoid them,’’ Mor­risey said.

He ad­vised peo­ple to take the birds down to the sea if they were not in­jured and let them go, or drop any in­jured birds off at the Hut­ton’s Hub at DOC’s Lud­stone Rd of­fice, which was be­ing checked reg­u­larly.

PHOTO: PIPPA BROWN/STUFF

Signs are put out in March and April so peo­ple know to look out for Hut­ton’s shear­wa­ters on the road.

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