Rare bird to area being sighted, some found dead

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VENICE, Fla. - A rare bird to the Suncoast is being spotted more and more. Some are being found dead. It's a seabird called a Razorbill, and theories over why they're here and why some are dying are swirling.

Charles Sample is a birder with the Audubon Society of Venice. In the past 50 years he has spotted more than 1,000 different types. Monday he was out trying to catch a glimpse of the Razorbill. "There is a half circle that goes over the back towards the end of the feathers," he says, describing the bird.

The bird, which resembles a penguin, is typically found between Maine and Virginia this time of year. In just the past month though it's been spotted along the Suncoast and in other parts of Florida. "It's very rare that it ever happens. We have had an influx of a lot of them this year."

After a few hours it seemed it was not our day, but then there it was -- one floating lazily between the Venice and Nokomis jetties. "It's great. It's tremendous. It looks like the pictures in the book."

So why is it here? One theory is that Superstorm Sandy may have blown them off course and disrupted its food supply. It also includes mucking up the water where they dive down. "Turbidity in the water and the birds can't see the fish so they can't get their food so they come south."

The University of Florida and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission are now studying the situation. They also tell us they have reports of around 30 found dead so far. Locally both Save Our Seabirds and the Wildlife Center of Venice say a handful have come in. None have survived. "Some of them have gotten sick and died. They are trying to figure out what it is."

One of those theories is of course red tide. Karl Bradley whose family is visiting from the United Kingdom says they recently saw two of the birds dead. "We saw them on the beaches. We put two and two together that it was the red tide affecting their diet."

FWC officials say however the birds are being found dead in places without red tide, saying most are simply young and suffering from stress, exhaustion, and are emaciated. Likely from the long journey.

Something else that is interesting about the bird is that it does not typically fly over large land masses. Meaning the birds must have flow down around the southern tip of Florida and back up the west coast. How they get back is also a good question.