Grounded Manx Shearwaters

Manx Shearwater flying over the sea. Photo: Amy Lewis

Manx Shearwater flying over the sea. Photo: Amy Lewis

Manx Shearwater. Photo: Annette Fayet

Manx Shearwater. Photo: Annette Fayet

The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales and researchers from Oxford University are asking residents of Wales to look out for one of our most special seabirds, at a time of year when they are very vulnerable to bad weather events.

The Wildlife Trusts’ seabird islands of Skomer and Skokholm, two internationally important nature reserves off the Pembrokeshire coast, are together home to the largest colony of Manx Shearwaters in the world. The two islands are home to some 350,000 pairs of this special burrow-nesting seabird, over half the world’s population of the species.

Manx Shearwaters are related to albatross and like them they are superb flyers, but when on land they move slowly and are easily caught by gulls. To avoid this, they nest in burrows and only come ashore at night.

By September each year, the young birds are leaving their burrows for the first time and preparing to fledge, commencing an epic journey that will take them all the way to the coast of Argentina.

These young birds are inexperienced and therefore vulnerable

Their flight out to sea can be disrupted by bad weather such as strong winds, and sometimes they seem to be attracted to the bright lights on ships and possibly also on the mainland.

This means that at this time of year, it’s not uncommon to come across grounded young Shearwaters on large ships, or on the mainland- a long way from where they should be, disorientated, and incredibly vulnerable to predators that they would never ordinarily encounter.

The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales would encourage anyone finding one of these birds to help it if they are able and willing

This is most likely in the hours immediately after strong storms. The very best thing anyone can do for them is to get them back to sea as quickly as possible. If they appear uninjured, the faster they return to sea the better for the bird.

If you find them during the night, and someone is able to get to the coast, release them directly to the sea during the hours of darkness. If you do not find them until daylight, then to avoid them being caught by the gulls or other predators, it is probably best to put them in a box until after dark and then release them in the same way the next night.

They will not need food or water during the day

Safely releasing these birds back into the wild where they can continue their long journey to the southern hemisphere is a real privilege and which can be enjoyed by anyone who finds one stranded. Please just remember, they have sharp bills, and always wash your hands after handling birds.

For further information, or to report grounded birds, contact the Wildlife Trust on