Famine and storms behind sudden bird deaths

15 February, 2024

Hundreds of guillemots have been found dead along the west coast. A harsher climate and overfishing seem to be the cause of the birds starving to death.

Malnourished guillemots have been found dead along the west coast. Archive image. Photo: Roland Johansson/TT

At Hisingen, the bird center has received over 50 tired or injured guillemots. Even in Halland, over 100 birds have been found where several were already dead when they were taken care of, according to WWF.

The guillemots found on the west coast come from the British Isles. Due to severe weather, they have drifted to Sweden.

It is not that the birds have intended to fly to Sweden, but they should actually stay around the British Isles. But with the hurricane winds, they cannot swim or fly in headwinds and waves for any length of time, says Inger Näslund, ocean and fish expert at the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).

The birds that have been found have been malnourished and likely died of starvation.

What is clear is that overfishing is an important factor in this. Climate change, which shows a change in the fiercer storms, also makes it harder for the birds to find and manage to look for food, says Inger Näslund.

That guillemots have drifted in this way on the west coast has been noticed before.

It has been a repetition for a few years when it has been seen that around 50-100 guillemots have entered. We have noticed how the winters have changed weather and how the storms have increased in strength and thus it has become more common.

Guillemots have sometimes been called the elephants of the bird world as they can live to be close to 50 years old. The birds that have now been found on the west coast are young birds that are not as experienced in the severe weather. The guillemots, which are used to diving for small fish in deep water, have simply had a harder time getting enough food.

Text: TT/Nyhetsbyrån
Photo: Roland Johansson/TT

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