Volume 44, No. 1

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Plastic ingestion in marine and coastal bird species of southeastern Australia


1National Marine Science Centre, Southern Cross University, Coffs Harbour, New South Wales 2450, Australia (
2Marine Ecology Research Centre, School of Environment, Science and Engineering, Southern Cross University, Lismore, New South Wales 2480, Australia
3School of Health and Human Sciences, Southern Cross University, Coffs Harbour, New South Wales 2450, Australia


GILBERT, J.M., REICHELT-BRUSHETT, A.J., BOWLING, A.C., CHRISTIDIS, L. 2016. Plastic ingestion in marine and coastal bird species of southeastern Australia. Marine Ornithology 44: 21 - 26

Received 14 August 2015, accepted 29 October 2015

Date Published: 2016/04/15
Date Online: 2017/02/28
Key words: Australia, seabirds, coastal birds, shearwaters, marine pollution, plastic ingestion


Plastic pollution is a significant problem in all oceans of the world and accounts for up to 90% of marine debris. Ingestion of plastic by seabirds and its effects are well documented, particularly in the Northern Hemisphere. However, fewer data exist for levels of plastic in seabird and coastal bird species in Australian waters or the southwestern Pacific. In this study, the stomach contents of a variety of seabirds and coastal birds (migratory and resident) were analysed for plastic. Nine (30%) of the birds sampled contained plastic. The median mass of plastic per bird was 41.7 mg and median number of pieces was 3.0. Shearwaters Puffinus spp. had significantly higher plastic mass and number of pieces than other species, and the most common type of plastic was manufactured. However, industrial pellets also contributed substantially. Plastics were primarily dark in colour. No clear indication of the influence of plastic ingestion on body condition could be found, however, internal physical damage and intestinal blockage was noted. Further assessment of the incidence and the effects of plastic ingestion in seabird and coastal bird species in Australian waters is required.


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