News of a spate of dead seabirds started appearing at the start of this week and staff at the East Iceland natural history institute followed up on the reports by carrying out a coastal survey from Berufjörður to the landward end of Reyðarfjörður--discovering 273 dead birds along the way.
Many more must have died
Hálfdán Helgi Helgason, ornithologist with the natural history institute, says it is not easy to guess how many birds may have died overall, but that it is definitely more than 273, as only a proportion of the bodies wash ashore.
Hunger the likely explanation
Hálfdán says the carcasses were seemingly undamaged and that most seemed very thin, which indicates likely death by hunger.
Seabirds have difficulty feeding in bad weather, and the weather has been frequently very stormy around Iceland in recent weeks.
It is also possible some could have been injured by hunters, as there was a lot of sea bird hunting in East Iceland this autumn and winter. Bird flu is considered unlikely, though it has not been ruled out.
Hálfdán says samples have been sent for analysis to MAST, the food and veterinary authority and asks people to report dead or dying seabirds they discover on the shore.