Since October, hundreds and hundreds of dead seabirds known as Cassin’s aucklets have been washing up on the Pacific Coast of the United States. The mass die-offs of the small gray-and-white birds have been noted from as far south as San Luis Obispo, California, to as far north as British Columbia. As widespread as the deaths have been, the carcasses have mainly been centered along the Northern Oregon coast.
The Oregon coast has been especially plagued over the last month. On December 21, visitors to the beach at Seaside discovered more than 50 dead birds on the shore, most of them Cassin’s aucklets. On December 26, 132 dead seabirds were found by Robert Ollikainen on the beach near Tillamook, 126 of those were also Cassin’s auklets. Just a week ago, on December 27, a man named Dave Miller counted 15 dead Cassin’s auklets at Moolack Beach. The very next day, he found more dead birds on Beverly Beach.
Miller, who is a long time resident of the area, commented on the gruesome discovery.
“I estimate there were probably 30 to 50 per mile.I’ve never seen that many before.”
During the winter months, it’s normal for some seabirds to die off, especially when temperatures and conditions take a turn for the worse. A large storm hit the northern Pacific Coast on December 21, and according to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, that storm may account for some of the bird deaths.
However, the dead birds have been turning up on the Pacific Coast since October, well before the December storm, and no one, including scientists who study such phenomena, are entirely sure why.
In addition to the Cassin’s aucklets that have been found already dead, there have also been numerous reports to the Oregon Shores Conservation Coalition of live but struggling Cassin’s aucklets on the state’s beaches.
Some of the Cassin’s aucklets found in Seaside, Oregon, were sent to Oregon State University for testing. Julia Burco, a wildlife veterinarian for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, discussed an interesting cause of death.
“It doesn’t look like a toxin. It’s more likely due to weather and food supply.”
As to the reasons why the birds are starving, some experts point to a successful breeding season. If there are extraordinarily large numbers of Cassin’s aucklets, the food supply will be overrun, and a portion of the birds will die out.
Other observers point to climate change as the reason for the mass quantities of dead seabirds. Climate change leads to unusually violent storms that may push populations of birds into areas that they’re not used to being. A warming of the ocean could also be affecting zooplankton, which the birds feed on.
Scientists state that for the die out to be spread out over so many months in such a large area, the entire phenomena is unprecedented. Samples of the dead birds have been sent to a federal lab in Wisconsin for further testing.
[Image via The Extinct Protocol]