CNN logo

Infoseek/Big Yellow

Pathfinder/Warner Bros

Barnes and Noble

World banner

Pelicans invade Chile coast

El Nino may be to blame

August 31, 1997
Web posted at: 4:46 p.m. EDT (2046 GMT)

ARICA, Chile (CNN) -- It's a scenario similar to Alfred Hitchcock's classic horror movie "The Birds." Thousands of pelicans have invaded the coastal town of Arica, in northern Chile. In this case, however, the birds are the victims, falling prey to the hazards of their new urban environment.

The chief cause of the influx, many people believe, is El Nino -- a periodic warming of the ocean that occurs in the Pacific every few years.

El Nino is a natural weather cycle that disrupts ocean and atmospheric temperatures in the tropical Pacific. Ocean water temperatures have already risen five to 10 degrees in some areas this year.

In the process, the normal food chain of marine animals and birds like the pelican is disrupted. The resulting lack of food disorients several species, and they end up in places far from their normal habitats.

The phenomena in Arica has occurred on several previous occasions and this year coincides with the arrival of warmer tropical ocean currents off the coast.

In Arica, some 1,240 miles (2,000 kilometers) north of Santiago, the resident pelican colony has soared from 200 to 4,000 in the past few weeks.

The pelicans have literally taken over the streets as they forage for food. Local traffic often comes to a halt as drivers are forced to wait for large flocks of pelicans to cross the road.

"Their attitude is very passive, always," said local fisherman Alejandro Olivares. "They don't move for anything."

The beep of car horns fails to sway the birds, and many are killed by moving vehicles. Overhead electricity cables also have taken their toll.

Chile's coastline isn't the only area affected by this year's El Nino.

Record snowfall in the Peruvian Andes has forced the government to declare a national emergency in parts of the country.

And scientists at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California at San Diego have warned that precipitation patterns could be severely disrupted this winter in many parts of the United States.


Related story:

Related sites:

Note: Pages will open in a new browser window

External sites are not endorsed by CNN Interactive.

Infoseek search  

Message Boards Sound off on our message boards

You said it...
To the top

© 1997 Cable News Network, Inc.
All Rights Reserved.

Terms under which this service is provided to you.