Something gruesome is afoot on Midway Atoll: As reported by the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), and now picked up by the Washington Post, mice there appear to be attacking nesting albatrosses and causing them to bleed fairly profusely. Why? Well, one speculative interpretation is that they’re drinking their blood.
Understandably, this has caused some concern. Midway Atoll is the largest albatross colony in the world, and history has taught conservation biologists that there’s little worse than an invasive species.
“The majority of seabird extinctions around the world have been caused by invasive mammals, in particular, non-native rodents,” the FWS communique emphasizes.
The common house mouse has been present on Midway Atoll for around 75 years now. Introduced with the black rat back in the day, their larger evolutionary cousins have since been exterminated, leaving the mice to proliferate without much competition.
These omnivorous scavengers are happy to get their jaws around anything that’ll provide them with energy or sustenance, and weirdly, the fairly sizeable albatrosses appear to be a new target.
First seen in the 2015 hatching season, mice are causing open wounds on the heads and necks of these seabirds, creatures that clearly have been taken by surprise. They’ve quickly learned to attack the birds from behind, where they’re most vulnerable.
“Mice attacks have increased from just a few incidents to hundreds of wide-spread attacks on albatross that result in injury, nest abandonment, and death,” the post notes.