Nova Scotia

Bald eagles in Cape Breton attracted by hundreds of dead mackerel

What was a worrisome sight for people in the East Bay area of Cape Breton a few weeks ago — hundreds of dead mackerel washed up on the shoreline — has become an opportunity for bird watchers.

'Saturday morning, there were 12 sitting in two trees,' says Nancy Sullivan

Hundreds of dead mackerel washed up on the shoreline in East Bay have attracted several bald eagles. Can you spot six of them in the trees? (Holly Conners/CBC)

What was a worrisome sight for people in the East Bay area of Cape Breton a few weeks ago — hundreds of dead mackerel washed up on the shoreline — has become an opportunity for bird watchers.

Several bald eagles have gathered to feast on the dead fish.

Nancy Sullivan, who lives near the East Bay sandbar, said she's used to seeing a couple of eagles around at a time. But this weekend, she got a rare show.

"Saturday morning, there were 12 sitting in two trees right outside my dining room window," she said.

"There were several flying around too, but there were 12 actually sitting there. It was beautiful."

People in the area started noticing the dead mackerel last month. A spokesperson for Fisheries and Oceans Canada said the fish may have died after being caught in an area of low salinity, or in shallow water during a cold snap.

Dave McCorquodale, who teaches biology and is the dean of Science and Technology at Cape Breton University, said eagles are opportunistic diners so they'd naturally be attracted to the mackerel buffet.

"Eagles take the easiest way out to get food," he said. "When there's a lot of dead fish, you're going to find a lot of eagles."

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