Mutton Bird Fact Sheet


LAST UPDATED: 5 June 2018

Adult short-tailed shearwaters, or 'mutton birds', fly halfway around the globe to hatch and raise a single chick each year in colonies across southern Australia, returning to the same sandy burrow every spring. It's an arduous, exhausting journey — but, sadly, even if they survive the trip, their home isn't a safe haven.

Once the adults leave again in April for their feeding grounds in Alaska and Russia, their vulnerable chicks — still covered in fluffy down — become targets for government-sanctioned 'recreational' killing on coastal islands of Tasmania. These defenceless babies are pulled from their nests, their necks twisted and broken. They will never follow their parents north.

Tasmania is the only state that allows this native species to be killed. Shearwaters are protected elsewhere, including in Victoria — where they were once hunted in vast numbers, especially by early European settlers, for meat, feathers and oil.

The cruel slaughter of these native baby birds still goes ahead despite ongoing grave fears for the long-term survival of the species. In recent years, experts and local communities have become increasingly concerned by the rising frequency of mass shearwater deaths during their annual marathon migration — pointing to climate change, warming waters and overfishing as potentially fatal stressors for these awe-inspiring animals.

Animal suffering

The hunting and killing of the short tailed shearwater involves a great deal of cruelty. The young chicks are ripped from their burrows and then are supposed to have their necks quickly broken thus resulting in death. However, there is no training for the killing procedures and particularly those involved with the recreational killing may be inexperienced.

A recommended three-step killing method is offered to hunters by the Tasmanian State Government, but it is impossible to know how frequently and effectively this method is used. It is highly likely that many birds suffer unnecessarily.

Conservation at risk

The short-tailed shearwater colonies are often disturbed or ruined by muttonbirders whilst attempting to get birds out of the deep burrows by digging and/or damaging vegetation cover. Returning parent birds in the following season may then be unable to find alternate burrows and breeding is disrupted.

Shearwaters also die in large numbers during their migration due to starvation, entanglement in ocean fishing nets, and oil spills.

What you can do

  1. Click here to join the call to urge the Tasmanian Government to step in and ban the cruel killing of mutton bird chicks.

Love animals? Subscribe and help end animal abuse:
I've read and accept the privacy policy
Like Animals Australia On Facebook
What contributes more to climate change than all the world’s planes, trains and automobiles combined? Hint: it’s not coal and it’s not good for humanity! Read more » »

Love a documentary that opens your eyes and expands your mind? These are definitely for you ... Expand your mind » »

We all know that eating vegan is better for your health, animals and the planet. But sometimes you just want a big bowl of the hearty, familiar foods you know and love. These recipes are for you. Dig in » »

For the first time, an Australian organisation has been selected as a “standout charity” by U.S.-based Animal Charity Evaluators! Animals Australia has been awarded this evaluation in recognition of our efforts... Read more » »

Our appetite for beef, dairy and fish is wiping out wild animals, and even threatening our own survival. Discover why » »

Despite the nightly news doing its best to depress, from Australia to Brazil, China to Norway, there is one trait that unites humankind all over the world — kindness. Read on to discover some of the best animal... Be inspired » »

The sun on their faces. The grass under their feet. A spring in their step. All animals deserve freedom. Watch the heartwarming video now. Watch the heart-warming video » »

What began as a basic love for animals led Ian to find a passion for rescuing roos and other beloved Aussie natives. Read more » »

Lyn White, Campaign Director at Animals Australia, spoke to audiences across the country — and asked one simple question: 'Does history have to repeat itself or is it possible to have a kinder, more peace... Watch now » »