2,300 dead birds found on Chilean beaches

May 12, 2012 at 11:40 AM
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SANTIAGO, Chile, May 12 (UPI) -- At least 2,300 dead birds have been found on Chilean beaches this week, officials say.

Most of the birds, which come from different species, are believed to have died from getting trapped in fishing nets, CNN reported Saturday.

Many of the birds had broken wings and bruising on the outside of their bodies -- injuries related to getting trapped in fishing nets, said Jose Luis Britos, an environment professor and director of the Museum of Natural History of San Antonio, Chile.

Normally, about 15 to 20 dead birds are found over the course of a year, Britos said. Climate change is believed to be the culprit for the sharp increase this year.

As Chile gets colder this time of year, migrating birds that usually travel north for warm weather are staying in the area to feed on an influx of anchovies and sardines that have moved in from the coast of Peru in search of cooler waters and are getting caught in fishing nets, authorities said.

Peruvian authorities said the deaths of more than 5,000 marine birds earlier this week are due to warmer waters off Peru's coast.

Since February, the Peruvian coast has been inundated with warm water -- a result of marine currents throughout the world's oceans, the Peruvian National Center for the Study of El Nino said in a report. The warm water has altered the marine ecosystem.

The warm water has caused fish such as sardines that live on the surface to either leave the area or swim into deeper water, the report said. As a result, pelicans and other birds that feed from the surface of the water died of starvation.

"If these oceanographic conditions persist, it is likely that its impact will spread to other areas of the [Peruvian] coast even during the fall, which could make the numbers increase and affect other marine species," the report stated.

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