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