Dangerous bird ‘took out man’s eye’
A WILDLIFE rescue group which saved a large seabird from a slow death has warned the community to stay well away from the Australasian gannet lest they lose an eye or finger.
Tweed Valley Wildlife Carers, which embarks on thousands of rescues each year, took to Facebook to spread the message after the exhausted young gannet was rescued from Dreamtime Beach at Fingal Head in earlier this month.
"If you find one on a beach, please never handle these birds as their beaks are dangerously sharp and can cause severe damage, including loss of fingers," it read.
"In one case locally, a member of the public had an eye removed due to the beak of a gannet."
President of the long-running group Jan Pilgrim said more migratory seabirds are becoming stranded on beaches in the Tweed due to impacts of climate change and more severe weather events, which affect nesting and bringing up young birds.
Juvenile gannets fly north from the southern end of Australia and even New Zealand in winter months and can end up blown off course.
While details are hard to come by, Ms Pilgrim said an unfortunate Tweed man, a member of the public, had his eye pecked out by a gannet in recent years.
"One of these animals can be quite dangerous. We're very cautious with them," she said.
"They'll go for your eyes.
"I know one of our rescuers has narrowly had one miss his eye. He was quite lucky. They do try and peck your eyes."
Ms Pilgrim said the group's volunteers undergo extensive training to avoid injuries during bird rescues, which are quite common.
"50 per cent of all our calls are related to birds and we get in probably 10 calls per day," she said.
However, an untrained Good Samaritan coming to the aid of birds like the gannet would probably underestimate the risk involved.
Some of the group's recent visitors include a pademelon, brush-turkey, ducklings, a joey and a tick-infested Gold Coast carpet python dubbed Nike, which captured attention across the country.