Cassin’s aucklets are Pacific Coast Sea Bird and are in news after the mysterious deaths of hundreds of these birds from British Columbia to San Luis Obispo, California. Some deaths due to harsh climate are normal but not of the scale witnessed off the Pacific coast. Scientists are trying to find the cause of these mysterious deaths.
Seabirds are often affected by snow and winter and researchers from the University of Washington’s Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team have observed more than a thousand sea birds die in this unusual way and washed ashore since this fall.
Experts however fear that it could be just a fraction of the real number of birds dead which could be in tens of thousands and more. The birds were found to have died due to starvation. Lindsay Adrean, a wildlife biologist from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has negated any oil or toxin as the cause of this mysterious die offs.
The bizarre phenomenon has been blamed on an unusually successful breeding season in British Columbia, which lead to overpopulation. The young birds flew to the south in winter but could not find enough food to feed. Some experts have also blamed Global warming and the associated disturbances in the food chain which made it difficult for these birds to find enough food for winter. However experts are skeptical of these causes and said that if so, others birds would have been affected, which is not the case here. So the Die off is still a mystery. Unusual and strong winds could have pushed the birds into new locations or prevented from foraging due to some other cause. Global warming and the associated increase in temperatures of ocean waters making it acidic and affecting the supply of tiny zooplankton, such as krill, that the birds eat could be one of the reasons also.
Phillip Johnson, executive director of the Oregon Shores Conservation Coalition said, “To be this lengthy and geographically widespread, I think is kind of unprecedented. It’s an interesting and somewhat mysterious event.”
The U.S. Geological Survey’s National Wildlife Health Center in Wisconsin has also been roped in to investigate this mysterious phenomenon. It conducting additional necropsies on dead birds, researchers said.