The Wreck of the Cassin’s Auklet

In the fall and winter of 2014-15, hundreds of thousands of a small grey seabird washed up on beaches from California to British Columbia, dead from starvation – a phenomenon known as a “wreck.”   Dr. Julia Parrish, executive director of the Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team, told us how this event was first detected, how many birds are thought to have died, and many things about the Cassin’s Auklet along the way.  We also heard about a similar event that affected Surf Scoters, but in a more restricted area and for completely different reasons!

Archive recording HERE.

Dr. Parrish also gave a presentation to the Mendocino Coast Audubon Society on the same topic, delving into the scientific details and concluding that the “wreck” was caused by a combination of two principal factors:  higher than normal nesting success (leading to a larger than normal population of young birds, most of which die every year) and unusual ocean conditions causing most of the population to congregate near shore – so when they died, far more than usual ended up on the beaches.  It was a riveting display of the best kind of multidisciplinary scientific investigation.

COASST Website


About Tim

Host for Oak and Thorn on the first and third Sundays of every month, and The Ecology Hour on the fourth Tuesday of every month. Oak & Thorn aims to present the widest possible spectrum of Celtic music, from traditional to contemporary styles, along with information about history and culture. The Ecology Hour- Science Edition (co-hosted with Bob Spies) presents recent scientific findings about the natural world and our place in it. My other interests include brewing, gardening, birding, cooking, woodworking, and history. I live on Middle Ridge in Albion, California, among wonderful neighbors.
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