Puzzling mass arrival of ‘penguin birds’ to Spanish coasts

THE mysterious mass arrival of penguin-like birds to Spanish coasts is surprising experts.

According to wildlife experts, several specimens of ‘Alca torda’ or ‘penguin birds’ have been observed this week along the Spanish coastline, as well as in other Mediterranean areas such as France and Corsica.

The Alca torda, a species related to penguins, usually live year-round northwest of the European continent, however, it seems that the birds may be changing their usual migration route due to the climate crisis.

According to Allain Bougrain-Dubourg, president of the French League for the Protection of Birds, these pelagic (deep-sea) birds normally move around the open sea and only come ashore to breed.

“So not only is it surprising to see them ashore, but especially to observe the unusual influx of ‘penguin birds’ in Spain and south-eastern France.” Bougrain-Dubourg said.

Unfortunately, many of the birds detected in the south of Europe have arrived in poor condition and several have already been found dead.

It is not yet clear why these birds are migrating to the Mediterranean. Nor is it known what causes the disorders that eventually lead to their death.

As Bougrain-Dubourg explains, there are different hypotheses that could explain this phenomenon.

A possible explanation is that in northern water, these birds are experiencing feeding difficulties, partly due to scarcity of fish resources. This added to the progression of global warming causes birds to have to travel much farther to find fish for food.

The influx of these birds to the Mediterranean could also be due to severe storms and high winds, as well as increased extreme weather phenomenon, which may have been removed from their usual habitat.

Whatever the reason that has brought these animals to the Mediterranean coasts, experts warn that these animals could be a reservoir of diseases.

“Many endemic birds such as the ‘Alcas tordas’, which do not have direct contact with humans like Torda penguins, are rife with avian influenza.

“That is why it is very important not to touch these animals,” Bougrain-Dubourg concluded.

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