Hundreds of seabirds washing up dead off Olympic Peninsula

PORT TOWNSEND, Wash. (AP) _ Scientists are looking into the deaths of hundreds of seabirds in the eastern part of the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

The Peninsula Daily News reports ( ) that about 300 rhinoceros auklets, which are closely related to puffins, have washed ashore since May. Julia Parrish, executive director of the Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team says there's no clear explanation.

Dead birds have been found at Discovery Bay, Dungeness Spit near Sequim and near Victoria, British Columbia. Some have been sent to the U.S. Geological Survey National Wildlife Health Center for testing.

Parrish says tens of thousands of the birds are successfully breeding on Protection Island, a wildlife refuge near the mouth of Discovery Bay, so a lack of food doesn't seem to be the issue. Scientists also are looking into possible contagions or poisons. She also said there could be a small algae bloom adding toxins to the food supply.