Yesterday, South Florida Wildlife Center successfully released an adult great shearwater for the first time in five years off a boat in the Atlantic Ocean. These seabirds are rarely seen on land; the wildlife center has only received 22 of them for care in recent years out of more than 12,000 patients they treat annually.

The shearwater was found on a cruise ship traveling from the Bahamas to Fort Lauderdale, and was transferred to South Florida Wildlife Center, an affiliate of the Humane Society of the United States, on July 15. The veterinary team has been rehabilitating the bird with fluids, hand-feeding, antibiotics and daily swimming to improve and protect his water-proofing.

Dr. Renata Schneider, director of wildlife rehabilitation at South Florida Wildlife Center, said “Our shearwater patient was likely stranded on the ship and then displaced in our area when the ship completed its trip. These birds are pelagic and apart from breeding—usually on a tiny uninhabited island chain in the middle of the Atlantic—they spend their lives over deep stretches of the Atlantic Ocean. We believe he was driven onto the ship by storms coming through his migratory routes. When we see shearwaters at our hospital, they are in bad shape—they have been battling seas and winds and have often depleted their migratory stores. They usually do not survive, but this very special patient is strong and we are pleased he was able to be released back where he belongs.”

Shearwaters were given that name due to their flying technique of almost “shearing” the ocean waters with the tips of their wings. Their lifespan is about seven years.

South Florida Wildlife Center, an affiliate of The Humane Society of the United States, is the nation’s highest-volume wildlife trauma hospital. A national leader in wildlife veterinary medicine and rehabilitation, SFWC provides emergency rescue, triage, diagnostics, veterinary treatment, recovery habitats, orphan rearing, and expert rehabilitative care to more than 350 wild species. Founded in 1969, the Fort Lauderdale-based facility helps more than 12,000 injured, orphaned, or imperiled animals annually, responds to wildlife conflicts, and collaborates locally and nationally on issues impacting human, environmental and animal health. Visit for regular updates on our work.


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