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Thousands Of Seabirds Washing Ashore Dead In British Columbia [View All]

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hatrack Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Feb-24-06 01:28 PM
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Thousands Of Seabirds Washing Ashore Dead In British Columbia
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Countless thousands of seabirds are mysteriously washing ashore dead along the B.C. coast this winter from the west coast of Vancouver Island to the Queen Charlotte Islands. "It's spooky to see them coming in like that," Pete Clarkson, assistant chief warden at Pacific Rim National Park Reserve at Long Beach, said Thursday in an interview.

The massive die-off of seabirds this winter follows the near-complete failure of at least two seabird nesting colonies last spring. About 1,000 glaucous-winged gulls failed to successfully breed at Cleland Island, a provincial ecological reserve northwest of Tofino, while about 400 glaucous-winged gulls and 300 rhinoceros auklets failed to breed at Seabird Rocks, south of Barkley Sound.


Thousands of seabirds were also reported washing ashore or breeding with poor success on the U.S. Pacific coast between California and Washington, including the mass starvation deaths of murres on Tatoosh Island off the Olympic Peninsula. U.S. scientists speculate the deaths may be associated with warmer weather and changes in winds and currents that might have reduced the availability of the birds' marine food. Clarkson said the first wave of seabirds, red phalaropes, began washing ashore in large numbers around last Christmas on the beaches of Pacific Rim park. The small shorebirds looked emaciated. "They appeared to be starving, minimal body fat," he said.


Clarkson noted that a similar die-off of phalaropes occurred about three years ago. An examination of their gizzards found plastic pellets or nodules produced for manufacturing consumer products. These pellets find their way into the ocean only to be ingested by seabirds feeding on the surface.

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