It's inevitable that you'll run into squawking seagulls flocking for snacks brought by beachgoers when you hit the sandy shores for a beach day. What you don't expect to see though, is a sea of dead birds. Florida beaches are littered with sick and dead birds right now, and you might want to stay away.
According to WFLA News 8, dozens of birds have already been spotted along the beaches at Siesta Key — considered one of Florida's best beaches — as well as along the coast at Anna Maria Island. What would normally be pristine stretches of beachy views have been covered in the birds that seem to have contracted an unknown disease that is baffling experts.
The seagulls that are coming down with the unexplained illness are all of the same Laughing Gull species, acting similar to us humans when we're drunk; stumbling and struggling to simply flap their wings with low spirits. The gulls first started appearing ill on Florida beaches on October 2nd, and have only rapidly increased in numbers as more are found dead on a daily basis — all seemingly out of nowhere.
A post in the Florida sub-Reddit discussing the spotting of the dying birds has commenters speculating on what could be causing this issue that has experts stumped. Some have blamed the strange illness on red tide, pollution, and even governor Ron Desantis. One commenter appears to be concerned about this display of unexplained mass extinction.
Most of the suggestions about what could be causing this don't sound too far out of the realm of possibilities. Pollution around the world has been a topic of discussion for quite some time: and it's not too uncommon to see a Florida beach littered with plastics, wrappers, and other human detritus.
Red-tide has been spreading all across Southwest Florida again recently too. We saw a similar issue like this back in 2018, where scavenger birds, along with other oceanic wildlife on Lido Beach & Anna Maria Island, were dying after eating fish infected by red-tide. Could that be it?
While experts work to figure out what's going on and rehabilitate the sick gulls, we might want to stay away from the beach for a little while — there's no telling what's causing it, how many will be found dead tomorrow, or if humans can be affected by the illness.
If you do happen to go to the beach and spot sick or dead wildlife, contact the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission or your nearest local wildlife agency.
*Cover photo for illustrative purposes only.