The dead-bodies of numerous seabirds remain scattered on the beaches. From California to Alaska, residents of western coast of North America have long been witnessing this. An investigation report in this regard has triggered the panic button among Naturalists!
According to experts, at least one million Common Murres or Common Guillemos (scientific name: Uria aalge), a bird of the family Alcidae in the order Charadriiformes, have perished in the last 12 months. It did not happen prior to these. Ornithologists are of the opinion that the catastrophe is the outcome of an abnormal rise in sea water temperature in recent times. And, one of the reasons behind this is Climate Change! They explain that the Common Murres face acute food crisis due to the rise in sea water temperature. Many birds died of starvation from 2015 summer to 2016 spring. Later, their dead bodies were washed to the shore…
An intact, fresh bird indicates scavengers have not yet arrived
Meanwhile, oceanographers have claimed that temperature of the north-eastern side of Pacific Ocean saw a steady increase in 2013. The temperature increased further in 2015 summer because of El Niño, a climate cycle in the Pacific Ocean with a global impact on weather patterns, and the flow of warm water continued till 2016. At least 62,000 Common Murres died during this period! The number touched one million in January 2020!
In its latest report, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) has stated that the mass death of Common Murres happened in the past, too. However, the number was very less. Dr John Piatt of the USGS said: “The magnitude and scale of this failure has no precedent. It was astonishing and alarming, and a red-flag warning about the tremendous impact sustained ocean warming can have on the marine ecosystem.”
Adult Common Murres return to island and sea stack colonies from California to Alaska, spending three months during each summer to breed. A single chick takes two parents to hunt for fish
Dr Piatt, the Research Biologist at the USGS’ Alaska Science Centre and an Affiliate Professor in the UW School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, stressed that the Common Murre is a self-sufficient and resilient bird. Although the bird eats about half of its body weight in prey each day, Common Murres have expertise in catching the small “forage fish”, required for their survival. Herring, sardines, anchovies and even juvenile salmon are no match for a hungry Murre. So, the death of so many Common Murres means that the unexpected squeeze on the ecosystem’s food supply, brought on by a severe and long-lasting marine heat wave, known as the blob, has made it difficult for them to survive by taking away their prey from the region…
Common Murres washing onto beaches in the Homer, Alaska
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