30 Apr 2012

Muttonbird numbers lower

8:12 am on 30 April 2012

The Japanese nuclear meltdown may have reduced New Zealand's muttonbird population.

A study near Auckland has found a third of the birds, also known as sooty shearwater or titi, failed to return this summer after spending the southern winter in their northern hemisphere base near the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

Department of Conservation researcher Graeme Taylor says the birds that did return were in a poor condition.

A separate study by Ngai Tahu and Te Papa of 30 chicks from the Ti Ti Islands, near Stewart Island, found no trace of radioactive material - making them safe to eat.