Nearly three hundred guillemots were found dead along the coasts of Iceland’s East Fjords last week, RÚV reports. Based on their appearance, it’s assumed that the birds died of starvation.
The East Iceland Nature Research Centre searched from Berjufjörður to Reyðarfjörður and found 273 guillemot carcasses. However, this is most likely only a fraction of the total number of birds that have actually died of late, said ornithologist Hálfdán Helgi Helgason, as in cases like this, only a small number of carcasses tend to wash ashore.
Hálfdán Helgi noted that seabirds like guillemots often have trouble finding food in bad weather and Iceland’s been subjected to a spate of storms of late. It is also possible that some birds were injured by hunters, as a great deal of seabird hunting has taken place in the East Fjords since the fall. It’s unlikely that bird flu is behind the deaths, but this possibility has not been entirely ruled out.
The Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority has been sent samples for further investigation and Hálfdán said he will continue to monitor the situation locally. He encourages anyone who lives in the area and finds a dead or dying bird on a seashore to report it to the centre.