KOMO, Jan 15, 2015 (emphasis added): Biologists are trying [to] figure out why there’s a mass starvation of Cassin’s auklets along the West Coast. The number could reach as high as 100,000… “A species die-off is always unsettling,” said Port Townsend resident Patra McDowell. Her husband, Larry, is equally concerned. “We’re seeing all sorts of mysterious goings-on primarily because we’re seeing changes in the climate,” he said. One of the theories is that climate change has drastically affected the ability of the Cassin’s auklet to survive. Julia Parrish of [the Univ. of Washington's] COASST, Coastal Observation & Seabird Survey Team, is investigating. “So this is a really serious thing and it’s making us wonder, are Cassin’s auklets the ‘canary in the coal mine’ for the near-shore marine environment?” she said.
KOMO Transcript: “Scientists cannot figure out why there’s a mass starvation of a certain type of seabird…. Tens of thousands of Cassin’s auklets are washing ashore on the West Coast.”
Peninsula Daily, Jan 12, 2015: Researchers hope that necropsies this week will reveal the cause of a dramatic increase in the number of dead or starving Cassin’s auklets… discovered on beaches in northern Washington in December, a figure 128 times normal levels. This represents a rapid increase over October when mortality was 17 times more than normal and November, which saw death rates 56 times higher than normal, according to COASST seabird program coordinator Jane Dolliver. Birds were sent to the [USGS]… Since October, the small, white-bellied gray birds have washed ashore in unprecedented numbers on beaches between British Columbia and Central California… [Several rehabilitated auklets are] ready for release, but [Cynthia Daily, operator of the nonprofit Discovery Bay Raptor Rehabilitation and Education Center in Port Townsend] is waiting until the spring “because there is no food out there.”.. Dolliver said that the reason for the massive die-off “is the $3 million question,” but she feels that it has to do with more than just a shortage of food. “If it was only a lack of food, then more species would be affected, although it could have something with their inability to get food,” she said. It’s normal for some seabirds to die during harsh winter conditions, especially during big storms, but the scale of the current die-off is unusual, researchers say, speculating it could be the result of a successful breeding season… Almost all of the auklets found on the beaches are dead, and Daily said she is not aware of any live auklet rescues on the Northern Olympic Peninsula since the die-off began… Daily said she knew last year that it would be a rough winter for the auklets because of predictions of a diminishing food supply…
The News Guard (Oregon), Jan 17, 2015: INVESTIGATION: Mass seabird deaths — The discovery of hundreds of dead birds… has scientists puzzled and has triggered an investigation into the cause. According to officials, the majority of deaths have been reported among two species of seabirds, Cassin’s auklets and the common murres…
The Weather Channel, Jan 11, 2015: Dead birds washing ashore by the thousands on Pacific coast baffle scientists – “It’s like a scene from a horror movie”
Published: January 20th, 2015 at 2:48 pm ET