AP, Jan 12, 2016 (emphasis added): “It was pretty horrifying,” [Seabird biologist David Irons] said… An estimated 8,000 of the black and white birds were found dead on the Whittier beach, said [USGS’s] John Piatt… “That’s unprecedented, that sheer number in one location is off the charts,” he said… “The length of time we’ve been seeing dead birds, and the geographic scope, is much greater than before in other die-off events,” said Kathy Kuletz, a biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “We’re looking at many times that. So possibly a good chunk of the population.”… Many females in 2015, however, were too weak to breed, Kuletz said.
KTVA, Jan 6, 2016: “It’s a major event and it’s difficult to see,” said Kathy Kuletz, the seabird coordinator for Fish and Wildlife. On Wednesday afternoon, Justin Siemens [said] “It’s super crazy. I’ve always seen a little bit of die off… but nothing like this,” [Kuletz] said this has the potential to be the biggest mortality event in the state’s history — numbers could reach more than 100,000.
Alaska Journal of Commerce, Jan 7, 2016: Anyone who has walked Homer’s beaches the past few weeks has seen a horrid event. Every few yards… dead birds… In the summer of 2015, the murres also suffered a complete colony collapse and failed to breed… “We had complete reproductive failure, which is really rare for murres,” said Heather Renner, a bird biologist… 8,000 dead murres on a 1-mile stretch of beach in Whittier. “That number is totally off the charts,” Renner said. “This whole region is having through-the-roof numbers in the last couple of days.”… In an interview in July, [Julia Parrish, a fisheries professor at the University of Washington] said a big die off would be like one seen at Kayak Island near Prince William Sound, with 1,000 dead birds per kilometer. “That’s knee deep in birds,” she said then… other species like auklets and guillemots have been found dead… Murres also have been dying in above-average numbers in areas of the Washington and Oregon coast… “These are scrappy birds. They’re used to it. Something else is going on… They’re telling us something is going on in the marine ecosystem,” she said.
Alaska Dispatch News, Jan 5, 2016: Thousands of dead common murres are washing up on the beaches of Whittier, an unprecedented die-off that has scientists wondering how many more thousands remain uncounted… The scale of the die-off is unprecedented along the Sound, longtime residents say. “It’s just mind-boggling,” said David Janka, a Cordova charter owner… [It’s] the worst Piatt has seen in 40 years of research in both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. “It’s a regular part of their life history, but I would say this is the most extreme I have ever seen or heard of,” he said… It’s possible that… there’s a disease or some other medical condition that’s causing them to starve… “It’s turning out to be something that does have the potential for population-level effects,” she said. “It is just off the chart as far as what we typically see with these events.”
KTVA, Jan 7, 2016: Carcasses littered beaches for miles outside Whittier… “Scientists tend to get blasé about this but this is bigger than I’ve ever seen,” [Irons] said. They know the birds are starving to death, they just don’t know why. “Seabird biologists say seabirds are indicators of the health of the ecosystem. Now they’re dying and that is telling us something.”
Alaska Dispatch News, Dec 30, 2015: Normally found skimming the North Pacific, seabirds known as common murres are appearing inland… starving and unable to fly… [Biologists] say the seabirds may already be pushing away from the ocean in a desperate quest to find food… [It’s] part of a widespread seabird die-off up and down the Pacific coast, possibly due to shortages of squid, krill and little fish the birds usually eat.
KTOO, Dec 26, 2015: Seabird die-offs have been recorded all along the West Coast of the U.S. in Washington, Oregon and California this year… “Based on the duration of the time that we’ve had carcasses being reported to us, I would say, it’s into the thousands, certainly, throughout Kachemak Bay,” [??] Slater said… They’ve also had reports of dead tufted puffins, horned puffins and an ancient murrelet…
Seward City News, Dec 30, 2015: It’s hard to miss the bloody bird carcasses strewn about town… None of this is normal… Alarming numbers of seabird die-offs are also occurring this year from California up the coast to the Gulf of Alaska.
Homer Tribune, Jan 2016: Dead murres litter Homer’s Mud Bay beach… and [continue to] baffle scientists…. This most recent wave of murre strandings is part… of a widespread seabird die-off up and down the Pacific coast.
Seward City News, Nov 16, 2015: It’s hard to miss the many seabird carcasses scattered along the beach, and in town… [Many] paddle lethargically as if in a daze… Murres are also acting strange in other ways, paddling towards people and other birds, not recognizing danger.
Published: January 13th, 2016 at 3:00 pm ET