More sea eagles were spotted in the yearly winter bird counting organized by the Icelandic Institute of Natural History during the first weekend in January this year than ever before.
The sea eagle is a protected species in Iceland and its extinction has been feared. In the winter bird counting 12 sea eagles were spotted, the highest number ever counted since registrations began in 1952, the main print media reports.
“The birds counted are only an indication of how big each bird population is. Fifty thousand eiders were spotted, which is five percent of the estimated one million eider population,” Kristinn Haukur Skarphédinsson of the Icelandic Institute of Natural History told icelandreview.com.
“Therefore we can assume that the 12 sea eagles represent five percent of the whole population, which means that Iceland probably has around 66 sea eagle couples [sic],” Skarphédinsson added.
“This is great news that confirms that the sea eagle population in Iceland is growing again and that it is spreading around the country. In the 19th century there were probably 150 to 200 couples of sea eagles in Iceland, before they were shot and poisoned as was common practice here and in other countries at that time,” Skarphédinsson said.
According to bird counters, eider is the most common bird in Iceland, as it has been in previous years. Surprisingly few snow buntings were spotted this year, possibly due to lack of snow during the counting.
An unusually high number of gannets were also spotted. Normally they don’t arrive in Iceland until late January. Two very rare duck species were also observed, which may have migrated from North America.
In this year’s bird counting volunteers were asked to look for birds that might have been harmed by oil that leaked from Wilson Muuga, the ship that ran ashore off the southwest coast of Iceland in December. Only one was found.
Counters walked along the southwestern shore accompanied by a specially trained bird dog to see if they could find any dead birds, but found none.
One hundred and thirty volunteers participated in the bird counting, who registered the number of birds in 150 areas around the country. One hundred and twelve thousand birds of 72 different species have been registered.
Click here to read more about sea eagles in Iceland.