MEXICO CITY - The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development in Mexico announced Thursday that the spate of bird deaths along the country's Pacific coast is linked to the warming ocean waters caused by El Niño and not avian flu.
Many seabirds have died recently in this region died, with more than 90% of the affected birds being grey-backed shearwaters, according to Mexican authorities.
Authorities said that after studying tissue samples from the deceased birds, officials from the National Agrifood Health, Safety and Quality Service (Senasica) reported that the birds had died of starvation. Specifically, they noted that this starvation was linked to the El Niño climate pattern.
Officials said the warming waters caused by the El Niño led fish – a primary source of food for seabirds – to swim deeper into the ocean in search of colder waters. In doing so, the fish became out of reach for many birds hunting for food.
A dead bird found on Mexico's Pacific coast. (Credit: Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development of Mexico / FOX Weather)
According to the Ministry, the hard-hit grey-backed shearwaters are highly dependent on fish as they usually live on the high seas and rarely fly to land. Because of this, the birds hunt large quantities of fish on the ocean's surface to meet their energy needs.
When the number of fish available for the grey-backed shearwaters and other pelagic birds steeply drops, many of the birds end up starving to death.
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According to Senasica, evidence shows that the birds die in the ocean and are then washed to the coastline by ocean currents.
Agency officials added that this phenomenon has also been reported in Peru, Chile and other latitudes of the world when an El Niño occurs.