PALM SHORES -- Things haven't been so great this week for greater shearwater.
More than 100 of the migratory seabirds have washed up from Cape Canaveral to Vero Beach in recent days, presumably the victims of rough wind and waves.
Since Saturday, about 70 shearwaters have been brought to the Florida Wildlife Hospital and Sanctuary in Palm Shores, including more than 35 of the birds residents and tourists delivered there Wednesday.
Unable to find food, the younger shearwaters may be getting exhausted from the rough weather, rescuers said.
"It's not uncommon for there to be a small die-off each year," said Sue Small, the wildlife hospital's director said.
But this week's shearwater die-off is beyond the numbers the hospital typically sees, Small said.
Most of the shearwaters brought in to the hospital so far have died, she said.
Tests last week by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission turned up no red tide in the Space Coast region. But state biologists will test some of the dead birds to see whether some toxin or harmful algae bloom might be to blame.
Similar tests by FWC recently found a common bacteria at fault in last month's die-off of about a dozen brown pelicans in the Palm Shores area of the Indian River Lagoon and from a few residential ponds in Rockledge. The bacteria was most likely from eating decomposed fish, said Kevin Baxter, spokesman with the state's Fish and Wildlife Research Institute in St. Petersburg.
But state biologists say the shearwater deaths are more likely the result of an arduous migration, from islands off Africa to their destination in Canada.
Greater shearwaters breed on a group of islands in between South America and Africa in the South Atlantic. They are one of the few bird species that migrates from breeding grounds in the Southern Hemisphere to the Northern Hemisphere, rather than the other way round.
Lisa Miller, of Rockledge, dropped off an almost motionless shearwater Wednesday at the Florida Wildlife Hospital and Sanctuary. She had found the bird in a parking lot near a hangar and the control tower at Patrick Air Force Base.
"It was soggy on its belly," Miller said, as the bird sat in the blue metal crate she brought it in. "Poor little guy."
Steve Hardiek, of Cape Canaveral, saw eight dead shearwaters and other birds struggling, as he walked Wednesday between Jefferson Avenue in Cape Canaveral and the Cocoa Beach Pier.
Vultures circled above.
"It can't just be random," he said. "It was very odd. There's clearly something going on, because there were a lot."