Seabirds are generally very hard to observe, and while our part of the sea is likely to be rich in different seabird and pelagic species, often it is difficult to identify them from shore, even with binoculars. So there may be many more species out there that we have not identified correctly.
Little Penguin (Eudyptula minor)
Phillip Island is home to sizable colonies of Little (or Fairy) Penguin. There are no known colonies within The Cape AO, but occasionally injured or dead birds may be discovered along the 2nd Surf Beach.
Shy Albatross (Thalassarche cauta) (ENDANGERED)
A medium to large pelagic bird, the Shy Albatross breeds in Bass Strait and is the most common albatross likely to be seen along our coast, especially during the cooler months. They are noticeable by their graceful gliding low over the water, and arcing/ banking flight with very few active wing beats. It has grey upperwings and the white underwings have black margins. The wingspan is 2-2.5m long. They were recently listed as an endangered species in 2020.
Buller’s Shearwater (Ardenna bulleri) VULNERABLE
A large grey and white shearwater, it visits the east coast of Australia between October-April, and only breeds on islands off the North Island of New Zealand. It would usually be rare to see them off our coast. A dead bird was discovered on 2nd Surf Beach in early 2020 after stormy weather off the east coast, which may have brought about its demise. It is listed as vulnerable.
Short-Tailed Shearwater (Ardenna tenuirostris)
Remarkable migratory birds that fly from Alaska in September each year and depart for the return journey in April. Their nesting colonies are on Phillip Island. If you look closely out to sea between September and April, you may see them “feeding on the wing” in their thousands in a fly past that can last hours! They may also be seen ‘rafting’ in large groups on the water when not feeding. They spend their days from first light to last light feeding at sea and return to the same burrow each evening. They are also known as “mutton” birds.
Australasian Gannet (Morus serrator)
When you take a close look out to sea, the low flying large white birds with black wing tips and golden/orange face gliding and flying just above the waves are the Australasian Gannets. You can see them “plunge dive” to take fish as they tuck their wings behind their tails and hit the water like an arrow. They are seen individually or in small groups.