Seabirds suffered in Atlantic storms

More than 20,000 birds died during the storms that battered France’s west coast in January and February

28 February 2014

MORE than 20,000 seabirds died during the storms that battered France's west coast in January and February, according to the French League for the Protection of Birds (LPO).

It’s the greatest number of avian deaths since 1900, LPO spokesman Nicolas Gendre said.

A total of 21,341 dead birds were found in coastal areas of western France by 500 volunteers on three weekends in January and February in the wake of storms that hit the Atlantic coast along the Bay of Biscay and Brittany. A further 2,784 exhausted and injured birds were taken to sanctuaries.

The LPO said that it expects the figure to rise further as sailors also reported spotting the bodies of many more birds out at sea. It has now issued an appeal for volunteers to find and identify more birds killed in the storms on the first two weekends of March.

Mr Gendre said: “After a storm, there are always dead birds, but never so many.”

Volunteers found the bodies of more than 12,000 Atlantic puffins, while guillemot and razor-billed auk populations also suffered badly.

Most starved to death after storms blew them to areas where food was less available. Others may have died of exhaustion because dangerous seas prevented them settling on the water, or of hypothermia.

The LPO said it also found oil on a number of birds, which it suspects came from vessels that emptied oil tanks under cover of the storm.

You can see a video of the grim search along the coast here.

Photo:Jean-Jacques Boujot

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