Bird News: Good and Bad
First the bad news: several hundred small penguins (mostly Magellan penguins) have washed up dead on Brazil’s shores.
I confess, I didn’t know that they had penguins in Brazil. Brazil is considered a very hot, tropical country, famous for its tropical rain forest animals like toucans, and penguins, of course, are known to be cold-water birds.
But I did know that there were penguins down the very bottom of South America, in Southern Argentina and some islands in that area.
According to the Christian Science Monitor, penguins follow currents north during the winter (which it is in the southern hemisphere in July) to catch squid and other prey. Every now and then, they catch a current and wind up in Brazil, alive and well but a little confused. The Brazilians are gracious hosts to the little lost birds, and take good care of them. Some are turned into pets (which I don’t think is maybe the best idea), but most are turned into zoos and wildlife rehab spots. Eventually, they are returned to the cold waters of the south.
This year, however, 500 penguins have turned up on Brazil’s beaches dead. Nobody is sure why. A weather pattern called “La Nina” may be to blame. Others think the waters near the penguins’ homes are being overfished, and the penguins must swim farther to find food. Sadly, this is not the first time something like this has happened; last year the bodies of over 1000 penguins washed up on the beaches of Chile.
This is truly upsetting news, especially since scientists don’t know what’s causing these mass penguin deaths. If it is a change in currents, there is little anyone can do. If it is caused by overfishing, it may take years for the fish population to replenish itself. There are no easy answers, and I only hope that I don’t read another story like this again anytime soon.
Now for the good--or at least, better news. According to the BBC, experts have found a surprising number of healthy birds in the area around the BP oil well. Although 900 birds have died (a far cry from the handful that I wrote about at the beginning of this oil leak drama), it is not as bad as experts had feared it might be. A lot of birds seem to be healthy, despite being near the oil.
I hope that story is true. Time will tell how bad the bird populations are affected by the gulf oil spill, which is, as of today, at least partially contained.
Between the oil spill, the Canada goose “elimination” and now the dead penguins, July 2010 is not a good time to be a bird.
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