Kapiti SPCA has been inundated with more than 500 sub-Antarctic prion seabirds blown ashore by storms.
Shelter manager Peter McCallum said the influx of broad-billed prions began on Monday when residents brought a few stragglers in, but by Tuesday they were arriving in droves.
Yesterday about 400 exhausted prions, which are plankton eaters, were brought to the shelter and tube fed a mixture of cat food mixed with saline to rehydrate them.
A Fastway courier offered to transport the first batch to a Wellington bird rescue organisation yesterday and more will go to other organisations around the region in the next few days.
Some prions normally straggle up from the southern oceans as far as Cook Strait, but with the present strong winds they are being found exhausted lying in driveways and on properties up to four kilometres from the coast.
Most have been between Pukerua Bay and Peka Peka but some were as far north as New Plymouth.
“On shore they get disoriented and distressed. They do not cope very well being on land,” Mr McCallum said.
About 80 were delivered to the shelter on Tuesday, and about 400 yesterday.
The shelter’s two staff and about 15 volunteers had been flat out, he said. “It has taken us over at the moment, with our normal work as well.”
He praised residents for saving the birds. “The people of Kapiti have been amazing. They could have easily just left them. It has been lovely seeing them picking them up and bringing them in. At least we can do something for the ones brought in.”
He expected the exhausted birds to be fed and to recuperate for three to four days before a mass release when the winds eased.
The Conservation Department said storms around the lower North Island had blown sea birds inland to areas where they were not typically seen. Most were prions and petrels and were believed to be younger birds not used to navigating stronger winds.