Rural – Jersey Country Life Magazine

INCREASING NUMBERS OF SEABIRDS BEACHED BY WINTER STORMS

Leach’s Storm Petrel (Photo Romano da Costa)

More seabirds than usual were beached last winter possibly due to an increase in the frequency and intensity of storms, including Storm Ciaran, which has been linked to climate change.

A total of 124 beached birds were reported between November 2023 and February 2024 including cormorants and European shags, storm petrels, gulls, guillemots, razorbills, puffins and gannets. Other casualties involved a variety of wader, grebes and divers.

The number of beached seabirds is collected every winter by the Birds of the Edge partnership and the Ornithology Section of the Société Jersiaise to monitor potential casualties of winter storms, oil spills and major seabird wrecks.

Strong storms can prevent birds from fishing whilst tiring them as they fight the wind and the waves. They also have a higher risk of becoming oiled when the sea is churned up.

Some of the birds might have been local to the Channel Islands and even Jersey, especially the cormorants and shags, as they tend to stay near their breeding sites throughout the winter. Other species, such as storm petrels, guillemots and puffins, travel from their breeding grounds across Europe and spend the winters far into the Atlantic Ocean. This means that those beached in Jersey may not have been our local birds – they may have died hundreds of miles away before being brought to the Island by currents.

Razorbill (photo Tracy Vibert)

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