Six months after their mass exodus, birds are beginning to return to Christmas Island. Roughly 17 million birds, almost the entire adult bird population, either perished or fled their mid-Pacific atoll home last autumn, leaving behind thousands of nestlings to starve (Eos, April 5, 1983, p. 131). It is believed that the strong El Niño altered the ecology of the surrounding waters and forced the birds to flee. Christmas Island is the world's largest coral atoll.

“Ocean and atmosphere scientists are unsure of future directions for the El Niño conditions and cannot now predict what will happen to the birds in the coming months,” said Ralph W. Schreiber, curator of ornithology at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County in California. Heisthe ornithologist who discovered the disappearance. “The recovery of the bird populations depends on the food supply in the waters surrounding the island.” The island's birds feed exclusively on small fish and squid.