White-tailed tropicbird takes to Christmas Island skies

Christmas Island ranger Tanya Detto releases a white-tailed tropicbird at Ethel Beach.

Christmas Island ranger Tanya Detto releases a white-tailed tropicbird at Ethel Beach.

This white-tailed tropicbird was brought into the Christmas Island National Park with suspected oil on its underbelly following the wreckage of the cargo vessel at Flying Fish Cove early this week.

However the substance on the bird washed off very easily and may have been mud.

The bird was otherwise healthy, so after a clean-up I was able to release it at Ethel Beach where it had been found by an island resident, and which hasn’t so far been affected by washed-up oil.  A stumble and a run-up and the bird took to the air and flew out over the ocean.

As far  as we can tell our wonderful Christmas Island wildlife appears to be relatively unscathed by the shipwreck and resulting pollution spill. However, we’ll continue to monitor the island’s wildlife as it’s too early to know what the impacts have been on the marine environment and species such as seabirds.

We’ve had reports of a few oiled shore crabs during the cleanup at Flying Fish Cove, but hundreds of thousands – maybe millions! – of tiny baby red crabs have emerged on the south western side of the cove. The crabs’ ritual migration to the rainforest continues.

Fortunately most species of seabird have finished breeding and are now dispersed, so there’s little risk for the iconic Abbott’s booby and Christmas Island frigate bird which feed well offshore.

Tanya Detto, Christmas Island National Park