Massive Seabird Chick Deaths; Climate, Atlantic Changes Blamed

"FLATEY ISLAND, Iceland – When the days grew long, seabirds flocked to this hamlet on the edge of the Arctic to rear their chicks under the midnight sun. “Kria,” shrieked the terns, calling summer up from the slumbering ground. Black cliffs were transformed into snowbanks of white kittiwakes. Puffins whirred between land and sea. Murres plied the shoreline, fulmars patrolled the skies. Everywhere sounded their vibrant chorus.

These days, a scatter of stubborn holdovers streaks the sky and paddles the bay, but the legions are gone. The chicks have perished, their bereft parents have returned to sea.

Half of Iceland’s seabirds nest on this low-lying volcanic outcropping and its neighboring islands in the deep west coast gash called Breidafjordur Bay. Flatey Island used to be covered with chicks snuggled inside rocky hillside burrows, under tall meadow grass, in nests strewn across headlands and shores."

Cheryl Katz reports for Environmental Health News August 27, 2014, as part of the "Winged Warnings" series, published in conjunction with National Geographic.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014