Due to a change in temperatures and the effects of El Nino, Alaskan seabirds are dying by the tens of thousands from starvation. Once they perish, their carcasses get washed ashore, but this does not give researchers a conclusive mortality rate at all.
The species of birds in question are known as murre, and their number is rather hefty, marked at around 2.8 million specimens located in 230 colonies across the Alaskan region. But several thousands of carcasses have started to surface on various beaches near the Alaskan Anchorage, the largest city in the state.
Because their normal numbers are fairly high, as well as the presence of a large number of remote beaches scattered across the Alaskan coast, researchers find it impossible to give out a conclusive death toll. But estimates circle around the 10,000 mark, with fairly high odds that this estimate might be rather small in regards to the real mortality ratio.
Murres require a rather small amount of food in order to function normally, despite their 18-foot height. Around 2.2 pounds of fish, mostly herring, are required per individual on a daily basis. But, unfortunately, fish population numbers have dwindled significantly in the region due to the fairly strong El Nino and the hike in temperature levels.
From the current shortage of food, birds simply die from malnutrition or starvation, with their carcasses eventually reaching the shoreline. Some colonies have opted to migrate inland, being spotted by several people near lakes and mountains. But due to the strong winds and storms present in these regions, most of these birds fall. This is extremely likely due to the fact that a majority of birds are weakened by the lack of sustenance.
The birds’ misfortune comes as a great news for scavenger animals that view the birds’ corpses as a delicacy. Foxes, ravens, coyotes, and magpies are currently benefiting from the generous food supply provided by the starving birds. Ocean bottom feeders are encountering this phenomenon wholeheartedly as well. This may eventually lead to an increase in scavenger population numbers, effectively disrupting nature’s balance.
Even if, currently, Alaskan seabirds are dying by the tens of thousands from starvation, researchers are now calculating the eventual population number alteration that might be brought by an even stronger El Nino in 2016. Unfortunately, some of them even claim that the dreaded possibility that some species may become extinct is rather likely.