2017 Seabird Die-Off

two birds from the Bering Sea bird die off 2017
A Horned Puffin and Short-tailed Shearwater documented as part of the seabird die-off, 2017.

NPS/Stacia Backensto

Late summer and early fall of 2017 a seabird die-off happened in the Bering and Chukchi seas of Alaska and Russia. Our scientists worked with other agencies to examine the scale and scope of the event. They counted hundreds of carcasses, documented the species, and sent samples to a lab for analysis. Preliminary data indicate the greatest number of birds impacted were Short-tailed Shearwaters and Northern Fulmars, but other species found include Black-legged Kittiwakes, murres, auklets, gulls, and Horned Puffins. Examined birds ultimately died of starvation or drowning, but underlying factors contributing to the die-off have yet to be determined. Early results from a walrus-stranding event in the Bering Strait that coincided with the seabird die-off indicate that walruses had been exposed to algal toxins, although it's unknown if this contributed to their deaths.

A map showing the density and distribution of the seabird die off in the Chukchi and Bering seas.
Tim Jones/Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team (COASST; www.coasst.org).
The distribution and density of the seabird die-off in the Chukchi and Bering seas includes the coast of Northwestern Alaska including Bering Land Bridge National Preserve and Cape Krusenstern National Monument, off the coast of Chukotka, Russia, and far out in the Aleutian chain.

Last updated: February 3, 2021