Carcasses of numerous small, white bellied seabirds known as Cassin’s aucklets found along the Pacific Coast since October are baffling the scientists. The gray colored birds with blue feet which have been washing ashore all the way from Northern California up to the north coast of Washington are worrying experts who are now trying to determine the reason for the mass die-offs.

The University of Washington’s Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team has seen more than 1,200 bodies wash ashore since fall began. Diane Bilderback, a volunteer with COASST, a University of Washington citizen science project, had not come across many dead brids belonging to this species till the beginning of fall 2014. A bit farther up the coast, near North Bend, Ken and Cathy Denton have also seeing hundreds of dead auklets being washed ashore.

“We’ve seen a lot of common murres, but those are common,” Ken Denton said. “This is the most we’ve seen of something else.”

Julia Parrish, executive director of the University of Washington’s Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team, is worried too. Her primary cause of concern being the fact that the number of the dead birds, according to her, could run into tens of thousands.

Though a majority of the dead birds have been found to have starved to death, the exact cause is not yet known. Different theories are being put forward to explain the possible causes of mass deaths among this small bird.

The birds have been found mostly starved to death, so the deaths are not a result of an oil spill or a toxic reaction to food, said Lindsay Adrean, a wildlife biologist with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Another explanation being offered suggests that the birds could have starved as a result of an unusually successful breeding session last year in British Columbia.

“Almost every breeding pair laid an egg, and as the young birds fly south for the winter they may not all be finding the small fish and shrimp they normally feed on,” Parrish said.

Adrean also suggested that a slightly warmer Pacific over the winter season could have touched off subtle changes in the food chain, making it more difficult for these small sized birds to sustain themselves. Still others are also suggesting unusually violent storms or changes in ocean chemistry as the possible causes.

Robert Ollikainen, a volunteer carcass spotter in Cape Meares, Ore., said he walked onto a low sand bar between Tillamook Bay and the Pacific the day after Christmas and came across as many as 126 dead birds.

He had never seen so many before. “My God, there were so many of them,” Ollikainen said.

It is usual for spotters to come across one or two dead birds along the beach on Oregon. Since the number of the tiny birds being washed ashore is alarmingly high, experts have now begun to take serious note.

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8 Responses

  1. Bruce Perens

    Not Fukushima. The world is full of low-level radiation because rocks, sand, water all contain traces of natural radioactive elements everywhere. So there is much more radiation naturally emitted in the ocean than could ever come from Fukushima.

    Not HAARP because it’s been shut down for a while, and it was just a radio transmitter. Due to the inverse square distance law the radio station near you will give you more energy than HAARP.

    Global warming? Sure. Pollution, sure. Emergent diseases, that too. It will take time to discover which.

  2. Precarious Mutiny

    The ongoing censorship of scientists could explain their bafflement and the only real mystery is why the media continues to ignore an issue scientists have struggled to bring awareness to.
    A small disclaimer, included when quoting scientists, outlining the current restrictions placed on media and research would both address the issue and provide context.

  3. Kate

    Honestly, We The People are getting sick and tired of reading how the Pacific Die Off of everything living in it, is “Baffling the experts,” or a “Mistery.” You KNOW the truth, and the people are now just finally catching on. What will you do when the whole population awakens to this?! What newfangled words will you pull out of your hats then? Your time of lies is almost over. People ARE waking up at an accelerated rate now…

  4. Kate

    ummmm…. anybody? …radiation, maybe? Ya know, Fukushima is still spewing thousands of tonns of radiation into the Pacific. No-one has been able to stop it, or really even tried… and it’s almost 4 years now, of this constant release, yet the scientists are “baffled??!!” Come on…. are you pulling my leg, or arm, or…?

  5. Jack Bass

    A change in the ocean’s biology due to the current (albeit mild) el nino? Kindly note the question mark, it means it’s a question and not an attempt to say I really know that.

  6. tracker

    It might be that they have been feeding on dead sea stars, sea lions, orca and pelicans that somehow have the same inexplicable affliction! Wow, science is at a loss to come up with an answer. My first reactor, Ahem, reaction would be to look at the obvious. Oh, silly me! Slightly warmer ocean temperatures. Got it.


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