WATCH: Researchers are trying to determine what’s causing one species of sea bird to die in such large numbers so suddenly. April Lawrence reports.
Biologist Don Kramer was searching a small Dallas Road beach for dead sea birds Thursday, and it only took minutes to find some.
A retired professor, Kramer now monitors sea bird fatalities in Victoria for Bird Studies Canada.
“So this is the species that people have been saying has been turning up dead quite often,” said Kramer, pointing out a third bird carcass.
It is called a Rhinoceros Auklet and at least 20 have been found dead on Victoria beaches in the past week.
“That would be extremely unusual to find that number of dead birds,” said Kramer.
And as he combs the beach, the number climbs even higher.
The sea bird, common in the area, is usually found out on the water, diving for small fish or krill.
Kramer said he might usually find one dead on the beach every four to five months.
On Thursday, in just one location, he had already found eight.
“It’s all one species, something must really be happening, we have to find out what it is,” he said.
And that starts with bagging the bird carcasses, which will then be sent off to a lab for testing.
“Look for toxins, look at how much fat the birds had, were they in good condition when they died or not?”
From his first look Kramer said the birds appear in good shape, like they aren’t starving, and like they died very recently.
Researchers say it’s too early to tell if this is the beginning of a large die-off event.
But since sea birds are an indicator of ocean health, what exactly has happened to these ones could be a sign of a much deeper problem.
“That’s the concern that this could just be the start of something that’s larger,” said Kramer.
If you find a dead sea bird on the beach you’re asked not to touch it but to study its description and report it by calling 1-866-431-2473.