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Scientists puzzled by mass deaths of seabirds

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Scientists have been baffled by mass deaths of seabirds, whose bodies are being found by the hundreds along the US Pacific Coast.

According to reports, hundreds of Cassin’s aucklets, a small white-bellied gray bird, have been washing up dead on beaches from British Columbia to San Luis Obispo, California, since October.

Generally during severe winter conditions, especially during large storms, seabirds die, but mass deaths on such a scale are unusual.

“To be this lengthy and geographically widespread, I think is kind of unprecedented,” said executive director of the Oregon Shores Conservation Coalition Phillip Johnson. “It’s an interesting and somewhat mysterious event.”

A veterinarian for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Julia Burco, said the birds seem to have starved to death, so scientists have ruled out poisoning as a cause of death.

The reason why the seabirds cannot find food still remains a mystery.

Researchers have said the food shortage my result from an unusually successful breeding season resulting in an increase of young birds competing for nourishment.

Another possibility is that severe storms might be forcing the birds into regions which they are not familiar with or stopping them from gathering food.

They also say an increase in ocean temperatures and acidity may be killing off tiny zooplanktons, such as krill, which the birds feed on.

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