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Scores of Dead Birds on Oregon Coast - Why?

Published 10/04/2019 at 6:53 PM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Scores of Dead Birds on Oregon Coast - Why Shows Mother Nature's Power

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(Cannon Beach, Oregon) – A nice run of good weather and calm conditions at Cannon Beach last weekend. Scores of visitors were out on the beach, enjoying the sun and surf, but around Haystack Rock Portlander Pilar French noticed something was off. Then she contacted Oregon Coast Beach Connection with photos. (Photos courtesy Pilar French, unless otherwise noted).

“Scores of dead birds on the beach,” she IM’d. “Why? They littered the beach. Some were tangled in grass, others out in the open.”

Other parts of the Oregon coast noted this as well, such as on the central coast with one distinct report coming from the Salishan Spit at Lincoln City.

Lots of dead birds on some of the state’s sands: what’s going on?

It turns out this is a yearly thing – a seasonal thing. In fact, it isn’t a mass die-off at all. It’s simply a matter of a lot of common murres were out there, so more died on the ocean than usual. Then, as seems to happen with every first big storm this time of year, weather and currents simply wash them in.

Keith Chandler, manager of Seaside Aquarium, said locals are used to this.

“When animals that live on the water die, they float,” he said. “ They’ll float along with all the other garbage: natural stuff like grasses, driftwood. And when the currents change they put all that stuff on the beach at the same time. Doesn’t mean they’re all dying off. Everything is going to die. It’s just that the weather puts it all on the beach at the same time.”

He then used a little Halloween humor to help illustrate the point.

“When you got to a cemetery it’s full of tombstones,” he said. “It doesn’t mean they all died the same day.”

What you see in French’s photographs helps prove this, as Chandler pointed out. There’s lots of other stuff on the beach intermixed with the bird bodies.

You’re looking at among the most common birds along the Oregon coast: the common murre.

They come in close during breeding season, though they usually live farther out to sea. Because of that, you have a lot of them.

“When you have more live ones for whatever reason, you’re gonna have more dead ones,” Chandler said. “When you have a lot of them born here, they don’t all make it. That’s the way nature works. They produce a lot of these because they’re not all are going to make it, and that’s why you have so many.”

Nature also has a way of picking up its own mess., Chandler said.

“It’s a natural thing, something the other gulls will eat,” Chandler said. “Crabs will eat it. Nature has a way of taking care of itself. They’re usually consumed by other birds and predators. If we leave it alone we’ll be just fine.”




Chandler said that since these are dead creatures, it’s not a good idea to touch them or let your dog roll around in them.

In the end, Mother Nature is still the ruler around here and visitors have to keep that in mind. Continue to keep a watchful eye and ask questions. But sometimes visitors have a kind of impatience with natural events, which can even include the weather.

“Everybody has a different way of looking at things,” Chandler said. “Some people think the beach is just there for us to walk on and nothing should inconvenience us. But nature kind’a feels differently.”

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Above: a common murre, photo Seaside Aquarium

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