Iceland Mag

4 Reykjavik

Iceland Mag


Seabirds dying of malnutrition in the sea north of Iceland, changing ocean conditions to blame

By Staff

  • Puffins heading out to sea The seabirds seem to have starved to death. Most are auks and murres, but dead puffins have also been found in unusually large numbers. Photo/Heiða

Unusually high numbers of dead seabirds have been found washed ashore on the beaches of North Iceland in the past months. A biologist who spoke to the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service RÚV said malnutrition and lack of feed for the birds were the most likely explanations.

Cause of deaths seems to be starvation
It is not uncommon to find dead birds washed ashore during the winter, as the birds die of natural causes while out at sea, and then wash ashore. However, unusually large numbers of dead birds have been reported this year. The birds seem to have starved or had been suffering from malnutrition as they are "extremely scrawny", according to Yann Kolbeinsson, a biologist with the North East Iceland Nature Center.

This year's deaths have not been examined systematically Yann told RÚV, but examinations of bird carcasses during similar years of unusually high numbers of deaths have showed that malnutrition and starvation are the most common causes of death. Biologists have warned for several years that changing conditions in the ocean around Iceland are causing serious stress on most seabird species.

Read more: Nat Geo reports that Iceland‘s seabird colonies are slowly wanishing due to climate change

Most of the seabirds which have been found are the common murres and razorbills, species which are not considered under any serious stress. Thick billed murres, little auks and puffins have also been found dead, but in smaller numbers.

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