The Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team, COASST, our “sister’ beached bird survey network on the West Coast detected an uptick in seabird deaths last month. In particular, they have experienced elevated numbers of dead Rhinoceros Auklets washing in to Salish Sea. Several news outlets have reported on the event. “About 300 rhinoceros auklets, which are closely related to puffins, have washed ashore since May. Julia Parrish, executive director of the Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team, says there’s no clear explanation”. “Scientists are looking into possible contagions or poisons, but if that were the case, Parrish said she would expect more to have washed up. She also said there could be a small algae bloom adding toxins to the auklets’ food supply”.
Scientists are still trying to determine the cause behind a die-off of rhinoceros auklets.
In addition to COASST, the British Columbia Beach Bird Survey is recording any dead auklets found nearby on the Canadian shores as well.
The beached bird survey network in North America consists of the COASST, British Columbia Beached Bird Survey and Seabird Ecological Assessment Network (SEANET). These three largely volunteer, citizen-based surveys are in many cases the only early warning systems for detecting abnormal mortality events in North American seabirds. As recently evidenced by the abnormal auklet die-off last month that was detected by COASST volunteers along the West Coast, the warning system was in play. For this and many other reasons, my “hats off” to all the North American beached bird survey volunteers!