Safe seabird release

If you hook a seabird

If you are close to the bird, gently pull it in until you can reach it with a landing net. If it is further away, reverse back so you are closer.

Turn off your engine and use a landing net to lift the bird on board

Get hold of the bird

  • for small birds (e.g. terns) - put your hand over their back with the back of their neck gently between your fingers
  • cover and then wrap medium sized birds (e.g. petrels, gulls) in a towel - covering their eyes may calm them down, but be careful not to cover the nostrils
  • you need to hold a large birds' bills shut (e.g. albatrosses), and then hold it under your arm or between you legs - be careful not to block the nostrils or twist the beak

Cut the fishing line off the hook

  • cut as close as you can to the outside of the bird's beak
  • never leave a fishing trace on a bird, it can cause them to get tangled at nesting sites and starve to death

Remove a hook in the bill, legs or body

  • use pliers to flatten the hook's barb and pull the hook back out of the beak
  • or use small bolt cutters to cut it off

If the hook has been swallowed

  • cut the line as close as possible to the bird
  • be very careful not to cut the bird's tongue
  • release it gently onto the water or if you are close to land you could take it to a vet or call0800 DOC HOT or 0800 362 468

Release the bird

Release a healthy bird gently onto the water. If the bird is exhausted or waterlogged, put it in a loosely covered box or bucket to recover before releasing it.

If the bird is dead

Any birds that are banded with a coloured 'identification' ring around a leg should be kept and given to the Department of Conservation because their life span is being tracked.

It is also useful to keep and autopsy some birds for scientific purposes. Call 0800 HOT DOC or 0800 362 468 to decide the best cause of action.