While one might think that those fluffy (or sometimes filthy and ratty-looking) flocks of sheep quietly grazing along the roadside in the Icelandic summer are harmless herbivores, it turns out there is something more sinister going on. Carnivorous sheep, terrorizing Iceland’s birdlife.
As Vísir reports, research indicates that the sheep that have largely been blamed for causing erosion in the highlands on account of their grazing, are also looting nests, preying on eggs of the spóa (whimbrel).
Biologist Borgný Katrínardóttir set up cameras in spóa nests and recorded 13 instances of egg poaching. Sheep were responsible in 7 of the cases. Foxes, skua and horses were responsible for the remaining cases of egg predation.
“I was surprised that sheep had been responsible for so many of the cases,” said Borgný. “This may be more common than you’d think. It would be interesting to see this in a larger context.”
She pointed out that this type of predation is known to occur in the Shetland Islands, as well, where sheep prey on tern nests.