Exceptional Number of Northern Fulmars Beached along the Oregon Central Coast during October-December 2003

by Range Bayer. Last update: 10 August 2004


Without long-term monitoring, it is not possible to determine exceptional events. Approximately weekly, Bob Loeffel's team has monitored a 4.6 mi beach in Lincoln County, Oregon for 26 years, and the 505 Northern Fulmars found beached during October-December 2003 was exceptionally higher than any year during 1978-2002 (see Figure 1). Many beached fulmars were also found during the same time on other beaches from British Columbia into Mexico, so this event was not local.

Bob Loeffel started an approximately weekly beached bird project independently of his employment with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) in January 1978. Together with others (his wife Shirley Loeffel, Sara and Don Brown, and Laimons Osis), he has continued to monitor the same beach; during the fulmar event in late 2003, Bob, Shirley, and Laimons have monitored these beaches. Bob Loeffel and Laimons Osis are retirees from the ODFW. The ODFW as part of their Wildlife Diversity Program has mailed out monthly and yearly summaries of this beached bird project that I have used together with conversations and email with Bob Loeffel to prepare this web page. Thanks to Bob and the ODFW for making this data available! Some of the data for these beaches were previously used in several research papers by others; and several birds rare to the Oregon coast found on their beaches were reported to the Oregon Bird Records Committee.

Phil Pickering's 1999-2003 seawatches at Boiler Bay also show that the number of fulmars near shore was abnormally high during October-November 2003.

The cause or causes of the 2003 fulmar die-off are unclear and may not be determinable because of a lack of information about the occurrence and diet of Northern Fulmars off the Oregon Coast. Oiling, shooting, and entanglement in fishing gear do not appear to have been a factor, but it is possible that one or more of the following factors may be involved:

1) fulmar mortality rates may have been exceptionally high as a result of unfavorable weather, low food abundance or availability, disease, algae poisoning, and plastic ingestion

2) mortality rates were "normal," but exceptionally high numbers of fulmars were present, so that more fulmars died

3) mortality rates were "normal," but other conditions such as fulmar distribution abnormally close to shore, ocean currents, and winds were exceptionally favorable for beaching dead fulmars.

FIGURE 1. Number of beached Northern Fulmars found during October-December 1978-2003 on the Northern and Southern Beaches by Bob Loeffel and his team.
                     DURING OCTOBER-DECEMBER

   500-|                                                   X-505          
      -|                                                   X  
   450-|                                                   X
      -|                                                   X  
T  400-|                                                   X  
o     -|                                                   X  
t  350-|                                                   X  
a     -|                                                   X  
l  300-|                                                   X  
      -|                                                   X  
F  250-|                                                   X  
u     -|                                                   X  
l  200-|                                                   X  
m     -|                                   X-165           X  
a  150-|                                   X               X  
r     -|                             X-115 X               X   
s  100-|                      98-X   X     X         X-92  X    
      -|                         X   X     X         X     X  
    50-|         X   O   X X     X X X     X   X     X   X X  
    25-|       O X O O X X X X X X X X   X X   X X X X   X X  
  1-12-| + + O O X O O X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X   
     0-| + + O O X O O X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X
         | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | |
             |         |         |         |         |
            1980      1985      1990      1995      2000

I am continuing to work on a report about the 2003 fulmar die-off along the Oregon central coast.

Other Links to Information about the Northrn Fulmar Die-off during Late 2003

Also use Internet search engines to look for "fulmar" or "dead fulmars."


Patterson, M. 2003. Northern Fulmar on Clatsop Beach report.

Gallob, J. 2003a. Cause unknown for coastwide seabird deaths. In p. A1 and A9 of 3 December 2003 Newport (Oregon) News-Times (newspaper).

Gallob, J. 2003b. Possible causes of the fulmar die-off: experts debate possible reasons for seabird mortality. This was posted to Tidepool.org on 5 December 2003.

Gallob, J. 2004a. Floating plastics found in some bodies of dead Oregon seabirds. P. A3 of 9 January 2004 Newport (Oregon) News-Times (newspaper).

Gallob, J. 2004b. Floating plastics a problem for Oregon seabirds. This was posted to Tidepool.org on 5 January 2004 . This article is similar to Gallob (2004a), but the Tidepool article includes some differences.

Ross, W. 2003. Something' taking deadly toll on birds. P. A1 in 5 December 2003 Eugene (Oregon) Register-Guard (newspaper). Search for "fulmar" at http://pqasb.pqarchiver.com/registerguard/ to see a partial abstract; there is a fee to view articles older than 7 days.

Sabo, M. 2003. Big die-off of fulmars perplexes bird experts: with thousands washing up on West Coast beaches, and shore sightings of the birds, experts can only guess at the cause. P. A1 and A13 in 5 December 2003 Portland (Oregon) Oregonian. As of 15 April 2004, this is at http://www.oregonlive.com/search/index.ssf?/base/front_page/1070629158241150.xml?oregonian?fpfp; if it becomes unavailable, it may be obtained for a charge at http://www.oregonlive.com/search/oregonian/

Sabo, M. 2004. Chasing the elusive flightless, waterlogged fowl. In 25 January 2004 Portland (Oregon) Oregonian (newspaper). As of 15 April 2004, this is at http://www.oregonlive.com/search/index.ssf?/base/news/1074949428326390.xml?oregonian?nwg; if it becomes unavailable, it may be obtained for a charge at http://www.oregonlive.com/search/oregonian/


Nevins, H. and J. Harvey. 2003. Preliminary Report: Mortality of Northern Fulmar (Fulmarus glacialis) in Monterey Bay during winter 2003. Beach COMBERS, Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, 8272 Moss Landing Road, Moss Landing, CA 95039 USA. [This report does not appear to be available online any more; see http://montereybay.noaa.gov/reports/2004/eco/bird.html#mortality
Beach COMBERS program links:

Benzel, K. 2003. Saving stranded birds: Northern Fulmars found beached along California coastline. 1 November 2003 press release by International Bird Rescue Research Center.

Dibble, S. 2003. A single species of sea birds is dying by 100s on beaches. In 8 November 2003 San Diego (California) Union-Tribune (newspaper).

Ravn, K. 2003. Rescuers rush to save stranded birds. P. A1 in 1 November 2003 Monterrey County (California) Herald (newspaper).

Underwood, B. 2003. SPCA workers save seabirds. In 23 November 2003 Monterey (California) County Herald.


Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team (COASST)(http://coasst.org). (Most of the beaches that are monitored in their project are in Washington, but many are also in Oregon. See "Breaking News" [November 2003 reports of fulmars on beaches http://coasst.org/default.cfm?fa=What&fsa=Breaking%20News] and "Beached Bird Trends" [Includes results of 8-9 November 2003 beached bird survey at Ocean Shores, Washington http://coasst.org/default.cfm?fa=What&fsa=Beach%20Bird%20trends).

Go to Lincoln County (Oregon) Bird Information

Email comments to Range Bayer or see Yaquina.Info Page, Newport, Oregon 97365 USA.