" What is that ?
Is it a penguin?
asks a diver, who filmed on November 19, in the waters of the port of Nice, a small black and white bird that he is not used to seeing on the coast.
Like him, many walkers in the south of France were surprised to come face to face with this little bird, the Torda penguin, also called "Little penguin".
"Oh, it looks like it's flying underwater!"
“, marvels a passerby, who immortalizes her meeting with the animal in the port of Théoule-sur-mer (Alpes-Maritimes).
Other specimens have also been seen in Ajaccio, along the beach of St François, in the city center.
A presence so close to the coast that questions the experts.
"For a week and a half, we have been notified of four individuals, two alive and two dead, in Corsica, the population is very present this year," said Amandine Pericard, head of the U Pettirossu wildlife care center in Corsica. .
Other Torda penguins have been seen in the port of Bastia, in Cargèse (Corse-du-Sud), near Ajaccio and in St-Florent (Haute-Corse).
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The Torda, which usually lives in northern Europe, usually comes to winter between October and April in the Mediterranean.
So far, nothing out of the ordinary.
But what surprises and questions, especially the experts, is that the bird is so close to the coast.
“There is a wintering population of Torda penguins in the Mediterranean Sea.
But this year, there are a lot of individuals who have come closer to the coast, it's quite exceptional, ”confirms Amandine Pericard again.
“These pelagic (deep sea) birds normally only come ashore to breed.
The rest of the time, they are followers of the storm, the spray, the high seas, so it's quite surprising to see them here, ”abounds Allain Bougrain-Dubourg, president of the League for the protection of birds.
According to him, several hypotheses could explain this approach to the coasts.
Among them, global warming, which decreases fish resources and would force penguins to find new sources of food further away.
Another hypothesis, the weather.
“We have seen seabirds inland that have no place in the world of men after storms or violent winds that had weakened the birds and swept them away”.
But the explanation that worries Allain Bougrain-Dubourg the most remains that of “avian flu”.
“Many endemic birds like the gannet, which have no direct contact with humans like the torda penguins, have been hit by bird flu.
Perhaps they have been contaminated by gulls which, themselves, make the link between the earth and the breeding areas, “he suggested, while calling not” above all not to touch them “.