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Gannets: besides avian flu, what is causing exceptional mortality?

Photo: Jean-François Rail/ Service canadien de la Faune

Îles de la Madeleine

The high proportion of gannets among the birds found dead on the archipelago raises questions among scientists.

In addition to avian flu, a multitude of environmental factors may be putting pressure on the species’ ability to feed, reproduce and migrate.

This is an opinion shared by biologist and retired teacher Lucie d’Amours, who has lived on the archipelago for more than 42 years and knows the gannets well.

She indicates that their feeding habits have changed in recent years, particularly in correlation with the significant decline in herring and mackerel stocks.

The biologist also says she has observed that the animals are thinning, while nutritional deficiencies can potentially make them more vulnerable to the arrival of a viral outbreak.

She also indicates that it is abnormal to find gannets on the ground elsewhere than where their colony is located, at Rocher-aux-Oiseaux.

The scientific journal Nature reported last week that this strain of avian influenza affects wild birds more than the usual strains.

Many of these birds are migratory, which explains why avian influenza has spread so rapidly around the world.

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