Mass death of guillemots, a type of seabird, has shocked researchers who describe it as a “major incident” and say they have not witnessed anything like this in Netherlands since the 1980s and 1990s. Hundreds of birds have washed up on the shores of the country and it is being estimated that 20,000 of them have perished. Hundreds more sickly birds have been taken into sanctuaries for treatment.
The bodies of the birds, which spend most of their lives at sea where they dive for their food, started emerging over the past month, from the Wadden Islands in the north to Zeeland in the south.
“The working hypothesis is that it is a combination of bad weather plus something else, and we are trying to find the smoking gun,” Mardik Leopold, a biologist from Wageningen University, said. “We have dissected some of the birds. They are clean but they were very skinny, with gut problems, which is indicative of starvation. But we need a larger sample and so have been asking people to collect birds for us.”