Very high levels of nuclear contamination have killed far more of the female birds, mainly due to the stressful combination of coping with the radiation while reproducing.
Writing in the journal PLoS One, biologist Timothy Mousseau of the University of South Carolina says that after counting the number of females to males around Chernobyl, researchers concluded that lonely bachelors are spending more time calling out for mates that just aren’t there.
The study also found higher percentages of yearlings, rather than more mature birds, meaning the survival rate is relatively low in the contaminated zone.
“It’s what we’ve seen for many years now,” said Mousseau, the director of the Chernobyl Research Initiative at USC, which has sponsored studies on the long-term ecological and health consequences of the Chernobyl disaster.
The Chernobyl nuclear power facility exploded on April 26, 1986, sending vast amounts of nuclear contamination into Earth's atmosphere. The region around the plant is peppered with ghost towns that remain evacuated 26 years later.
Photo: Timothy Mousseau - USC