Love is in the air as elusive Port Kembla sea birds breed in time for Valentines Day

Picture: Office of Environment and Heritage
Picture: Office of Environment and Heritage

For the first time in over 50 years, an elusive nocturnal sea bird is breeding on the Five Islands Nature Reserve, off Port Kembla.

Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton announced several white-faced storm petrels had been seen emerging from their underground burrows this week, just in time for Valentine’s Day.

The elusive birds were last seen breeding on the island in 1962.

“These birds have been seen on and off since 2014 but haven’t been able to burrow to make nests on the island because it was covered with weeds,” Ms Upton said.

​“The National Parks and Wildlife Services (NPWS) and Friends of Five Islands volunteer group have spent the past four years eradicating weeks from the area and planting more than 12,000 native plants by hand.

“And it’s paid off!”

Three adults and three chicks have been observed in and around the burrows on the island this month.

Two of the breeding adults were caught and fitted with approved bands around their legs this week, to determine if the birds are among others that might return to breed next season.

“This is a fantastic opportunity to show how on-ground conservation efforts are working,” Ms Upton said.

“Programs like this are an important part of the NSW Government’s commitment to conservation.

Picture: Office of Environment and Heritage

Picture: Office of Environment and Heritage

“There is not much known about this species so this will contribute enormously to understanding the small, but significant bird.”

White-faced storm petrels breed on remote islands in the south Atlantic, Canary Islands, Australia and New Zealand.  They nest in colonies close to the sea in rock crevices where they lay a single white egg each season, and then spend the rest of the year at sea.

The birds are nocturnal at their breeding sites to avoid predators.

The NSW Government has committed over $240,000 to the conservation work at the Five Islands Nature Reserve.