Hundreds of Dead Birds on Beaches in East Fjords

Vala Hafstað

Numerous dead seabirds have been found on beaches in the East Fjords lately, Morgunblaðið reports. Employees of the East Iceland Nature Research Center checked beaches from Berufjörður fjord to Reyðarfjörður fjord yesterday. They discovered the carcasses of 273 birds — mainly razorbills, guillemots (common murres) and little auks (dovekies).

“Most of the carcasses were quite shriveled and battered,” the Research Center reports on its website, “but among those that remained relatively whole, you could tell that most, but not all, were very skinny.”

Research suggests that in inclement weather, it is difficult for seabirds to find food. There have been cases of thousands, even tens of thousands, of seabird carcasses having drifted to beaches. That occurred, for example during the winter of 2001-2002, when tens of thousands of seabirds died of hunger in the ocean west, north and east of Iceland.

The Research Center states that reasons other than hunger may explain the recent death of birds.  Some of them may have been injured by hunters. Another explanation could be diseases, such as bird flu.

Yesterday MAST, the Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority, posted a report on its website regarding the recent discovery of dead seabirds in the East Fjords.

Samples from the carcasses are being examined by MAST. “Bird flu is widespread in Europe these days, in wild and domestic birds alike,” the report reads. “Although bird flu is unlikely to cause the death of so many wild birds, MAST will see to that the samples be examined at the University of Iceland Institute For Experimental Pathology at Keldur.”

MAST states that the bird flu variants currently most common in neighboring countries have not been transmitted to people.  Still, dead birds should be handled with disposable gloves only.

If a dead bird is found, which clearly hasn’t died of an accident, MAST should be notified.

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