Alarming number of dead seabirds washing up on Pacific shorelines in Canada, U.S.
Saturday, January 24, 2015, 7:20 PM - Thousands of dead seabirds have been found on beaches stretching from southern California to central British Columbia -- and experts aren't quite sure why.
Hundreds of bodies of tiny diving birds, known as cassin auklets, have been washing onshore in record numbers since October of last year.
In some areas, the die-off has been one hundred times greater than any previously recorded.
Necropsies performed by the U.S. Geological Survey have indicated that the birds are dying of starvation.
But the cause of death and sheer number of deceased specimens still have experts baffled.
The palm-sized feathered fliers spend the majority of their lives at sea, nesting on offshore islands and feeding on krill and plankton.
Rising water temperatures -- and the warmest year on record in 2014 -- threatened to create less favourable environments for the cassin auklets' main food source this winter.
These findings have puzzled researchers because other birds that feed on the same plankton have not been affected.
Out of a total population between 1 and 3.5 million, researchers have estimated that up to 100,000 cassin auklets have died along the Pacific coasts of Canada and the United States since October 2014.
The unprecedented decline in the auklet population has coincided with the large-scale losses of other marine life, including starfish and other underwater species.