News Releases

Seabird die-off unrelated to oil spill

News Release

Friday, July 02, 2010

Media contact: Patricia Behnke, 850-251-2130

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) received reports of more than 35 dead greater shearwaters, a gull-like bird, along the Atlantic coast of Florida from Delray Beach to Cocoa Beach. The birds have been collected, and some have already been examined. FWC biologists confirmed Tuesday that the deaths are not related to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

In June 2007, more than 800 dead or sick greater shearwaters were reported along Florida's east coast from Martin County north to St. Johns County.  Die-offs of shearwaters occur occasionally at this time of year as the birds leave their breeding grounds in South Africa and cross the Atlantic on their way to New England.

"These birds are generally juveniles with empty stomachs, with no fat stores, and are severely underweight," said Daniel Wolf, the FWC's avian influenza coordinator. "We are certain that these are not oil-related casualties."

Juvenile greater shearwaters are not as able as adults at putting on enough fat stores to make the long trip from their breeding grounds on Tristan da Cunha Island off the coast of South Africa to their summer home in New England. They are often spotted where whales are feeding or behind fishing boats as they clean fish. Storms at sea can cause dehydration and eventual death.

The FWC urges the public to never handle birds, but asks you to report sightings of sick, injured birds to the Wildlife Alert Hotline, 888-404-3922.  Also, do not handle dead birds, but report them to To report oiled birds or other oiled wildlife, call 866-557-1401.

FWC Facts:
If you're boating through an unfamiliar waterway, stay within the marked channels.

Learn More at AskFWC