(CNN) Tufted puffins, those adorable black and white birds with big orange beaks, experienced an unusual die-off in the Bering Sea in late 2016 through early 2017. Massive mortality events like this seem to be increasing, likely because of climate change, according to a new study running in PLOS ONE.
Researchers found over 350 carcasses on St. Paul Island in the Bering Sea, Alaska, between October 2016 and January 2017. They estimate anywhere from 3,150 to 8,800 birds died in that time period.
There was no oil spill, nor was there any other dramatic catastrophic event. Scientists think the birds died because they were starving. The adult bird bodies scientists found were severely emaciated. While there were some strong winter storms that kept the birds from foraging toward the end of the time period, they think there is a bigger factor that was keeping the birds from eating -- climate change.