Mutton bird season under way

22:48, Apr 17 2014
Muttonbird, sooty shearwater
MUTTONBIRD: Also known as the sooty shearwater.

The mutton-birding season on the Titi Islands is cranking up, and their catchers say it is already looking better than last year's horror season.

A lack of small fish such as krill for the birds to feed on last year resulted in many mutton-birds dying in their holes.

Long-time mutton-birder Robert Coote said the mortality rate of chicks was ''phenomenal'' in 2013.

But this season, which stated on April 1 and finishes at the end of May, was looking better.

''I have spoken to a few people, things aren't looking too bad. There seems to be more food around,'' Coote said.

Tiny Metzger, who has missed just a ''few'' mutton-birding seasons in his 80 years, said he was getting mixed feedback from the islands, which are near Stewart Island.


Some areas had healthy birds and some areas did not, but one thing was clear.

''Anything would be better than last year,'' Metzger said.

In his lifetime, a bad season was followed by a good season.

''If that follows, I don't think it will be too bad.''

Metzger will find out for himself - he was to go to the islands this week.

Another mutton-birder, Pania Coote, said reports from the islands this season were generally positive.

The birds being caught were a good size and the majority were healthy, which indicated the feeding was good, she said.

Catches varied from island to island, with some reports of reduced numbers but others reporting similar numbers to previous years.


The Southland Times