What prions are and why we should care

Fairy-Prion-Whangaroa-July-2014-Les-Feasey-small-393x590Fairy prions are the most beautiful tiny, pale blue and grey seabirds, a cousin of the albatross.  Sadly, they are commonly washed up on our beaches and Alan Tennyson of Te Papa has investigated.

In his Te Papa blog, Tennyson explains why these pretty birds are the most common kind of bird washed ashore.  Last August, I found two dead prions on the Hokitika beach, just yards from each other at the tide line and shared the sad story on facebook.

In 2011, a quarter of a million prions were driven ashore on New Zealand coastlines, predominantly in the North Island, after a storm lasting several days.  Tennyson explores the toughness of these little birds as well as their vulnerability to human-made changes.

The West Coast Penguin Trust discovered a large colony of fairy prions, along with other seabirds, on Wall Island, just off Cape Foulwind, and maintains predator trapping to reduce the risk that rats or stoats could reach the island and destroy the colonies of seabirds there.

Antarctic-prion-Wgtn-Zoo-July-2011-small-590x443 Alan Tennyson nzbirdsonlineYou can read Tennyson’s fairy prion blog here, accompanied by some stunning photographs, including the shape of the beak, which turns up at the corners in a delightful smile.  He provides several more links to related stories, including a wonderful blog called ‘Bird man!’, about his work on Snares Island studying broad-billed prions, with great video clips.