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Mass Bird Deaths: Mystery Linked To El Nino
The deaths of thousands of birds found off the coasts of Chile and its northern neighbour Peru recently could be connected to El Nino, the warming of the Pacific Ocean's surface temperature.
More than 2,000 dead fowl were discovered washed up this week on beaches between Cartagena and Playa de Santo Domingo in Chile after apparently being caught up in fishermen's nets.
This time of year, as Chilean weather usually gets colder, migrating birds would normally travel north for warmth.
But instead they are said to have stayed to feast on an influx of anchovies and sardines that fled the coast of Peru in search of cooler waters further south.
There are usually 15-20 bird deaths from fishing nets each year and the rise in bird numbers may explain the marked increase in fatalities.
Most of the fowl were gray petrels, but there were also pelicans, gannets and Guanay cormorants.
San Antonio natural history and archaeology museum director Jose Luis Brito accused fishermen of "doing nothing" when birds get caught up in their nets.
He alleged they left them "to drown before throwing the bodies back into the sea".
Meanwhile, fish moving south from Peru may also be the reason why around 5,000 birds, including hundreds of pelicans, died in recent days.
The Peruvian National Centre for the Study of El Nino said that since February, its coast has had an abundance of warm water due to marine currents throughout the world's oceans.
It said the warm water has changed the marine ecosystem and led fish such as anchovies and other species that live in surface waters to migrate to deeper water toward the south.
As a result, pelicans and other birds that feed from the surface of the water died of starvation.