The largest bird colony in the Gulf Coast of Florida was abandoned in May, with nests empty and eggs broken on the ground. Why the birds left is still a mystery.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Vic Doig called the island a “dead zone.”
“This is where the largest bird colony on the Gulf Coast of Florida used to be.”
According to the AP, Seahorse Key is a 150-acre mangrove-covered dune off Florida’s Gulf Coast. Typically, this time of year, it’s a noisy, rowdy spot for thousands of birds including little blue herons, roseate spoonbills, snowy egrets, pelicans, and others. The birds would come to the island to lay their eggs and nest.
Now, it’s silent.
The Daily Mail reports that avian biologists are rushing to find answers, but so far, they’ve come up short.
Biologist Peter Frederick from the University of Florida explained.
“It’s not uncommon for birds to abandon nests. But, in this case, what’s puzzling is that all of the species did it all at once.”
Frederick has studied birds for almost 30 years, but still doesn’t have a clear answer to this phenomenon.
Biologists have reportedly investigated three theories.
The first was that the birds were forced to abandon the area after some new predators appeared. Raccoons could have swum over; owls were also potential culprits.
Nevertheless, the biologists didn’t find enough raccoons to explain the mass disappearance of birds. Likewise, there were no signs of owls.
Next, they tested the bird carcasses for disease, but the tests turned up negative.
The final idea is that night flights over the island prompted the sudden migration, but the biologists agree that is a long-shot explanation.
Just a couple of months ago, scientists were faced with another bird mystery off the coast of Chile, when 1,300 birds were suddenly found dead.
As previously reported by the Inquisitr, visitors found the mass of bird bodies in the southern town of Lenga. In that case, biologists also suspected disease. Nevertheless, SILive reported a couple weeks ago that all tests turned up negative, just like on Seahorse Key.
Whatever the cause, researchers are concerned that the birds might be abandoning their Florida colony for good. Migratory birds tend to lay their eggs and nest in the same spots year after year. If they’re spooked away this year, it might start a trend, making the island abandoned for good, which may disrupt the area’s fragile ecosystem.
The area is part of the Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge, which has protected birds since 1929, allowing them to care for their eggs in relative safety.
[Image Credit: Ebyabe / Wikimedia Commons]