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'Wreck' of birds swept west by Antarctic gales

Tuesday 12 Jul 2011 5:40 p.m.

By Simon Shepherd

The gale force winds that have swept up from Antarctica have had a devastating effect on wildlife.

Scores of broad-billed prions, a small seabird, have been swept onto Western coastlines exhausted and injured.

Staff at the Massey Wildlife Health Centre have been inundated with 125 prions, with another 60 on their way.

Veterinarian Kerry Morgan is treating the birds. She says the plan is to give them food and fluids and warm them up so that they can be released into the wild when the stormy conditions pass.

The prions are petrified, so the team works quickly, giving them a fish milkshake before letting them rest.

The birds migrate north from the Chatham and Stewart Islands.

They normally stay out at sea, but strong westerlies have forced them on shore - a phenomenon known as "a sea bird wreck".

Such a phenomenon is apparently not uncommon, with experts saying “wrecks” occur every 10 years or so.

The birds are healthy, they just need time to recover and the winds to ease before they can go back to sea.

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