Widespread Bird Deaths in West and South Iceland Skip to content
Puffin Iceland
Photo: Photo: Golli. Nesting Atlantic Puffins.

Widespread Bird Deaths in West and South Iceland

Locals have reported dead puffins and kittiwakes in the dozens and even hundreds in recent weeks, RÚV reports. Such deaths are unusual at this time of year in Iceland and their cause is unknown. While bird flu is unlikely to be the cause, extreme weather may be a possible explanation.

Borgarnes resident Pavle Estrajher spotted five dead puffins on the shore in the town last month. When he made a post about them on Facebook, he received many comments from others who had found dead puffins in the region. Snæfellsnes peninsula resident Jón Helgason reported seeing hundreds of dead puffins and kittiwakes at Löngufjörur beach on the peninsula’s south coast, for example.

Bird flu not the cause

The widespread deaths of Kittiwakes cannot be attributed to bird flu, according to Brigitte Brugger of the Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority (MAST). Samples from the birds analysed by MAST ruled out the illness. “In any case, no bird flu viruses were found in these samples that have been taken,” Brigitte stated.

Some have suggested that extreme weather may have caused the deaths, including meteorologist Einar Sveinbjörnsson. The wave height in West Iceland’s Faxaflói bay was forecast at 8-9 metres during last month, unseasonably extreme weather for late May. Previous reports of widespread bird deaths in Iceland have usually occurred in wintertime and been attributed to extreme weather or scarcity of food.

Iceland’s puffin population has declined by 70% over the last 30 years, according to the latest figures. Residents of Grímsey island in North Iceland report, anecdotally at least, that the island’s puffin population is strong.

Sign up for our weekly newsletter

Get news from Iceland, photos, and in-depth stories delivered to your inbox every week!

* indicates required

Subscribe to Iceland Review

In-depth stories and high-quality photography showcasing life in Iceland!

Share article

Facebook
Twitter

Recommended Posts