A photo taken on Feb. 10 shows the bodies of puffins washed up on a beach in Sainte-Marie-de-Re, western France, after heavy storms. (Xavier Leoty/AFP/Getty Images)
Violent storms that have battered France and other parts of Europe this winter are to blame for the deaths of thousands of birds, according to French society for the protection of birds.
A total of 21,341 dead birds were found in western France by 500 volunteers working on three weekends, the French League for the Protection of Birds (LPO) said in a statement Wednesday.
France has not seen a bird "slaughter" this large since 1900, the Agence France-Presse reports.
The worst-affected species were the Atlantic puffin, the common murre and the razor-billed auk, LPO said.
Nearly 2,800 injured birds were taken to rescue centers, the league said.
The birds killed were primarily killed on Bay of Biscay and Brittany, on the Atlantic Coast, as a string of winter storms buffeted Europe in January and February.
LPO's Nicolas Gendre told AFP the birds died of exhaustion or starvation as a result of days of gale-force winds, which made it impossible for them to fish.
MORE: Winter Storms Flood UK
Children walk their dogs past a relatively small amount of flooding on a residential street near the River Thames on February 19, 2014 in Egham, England. (Oli Scarff/Getty Images)