Thousands of puffins have died, and scientists believe climate change played a role

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A tufted puffin swims in its enclosure at the Monterey Bay Aquarium in Monterey, California, September 22, 2018. (Photo by EVA HAMBACH / AFP) (Photo credit should read EVA HAMBACH/AFP/Getty Images)

ST. PAUL ISLAND, Ak. (CBS) — Thousands of tufted puffins — the instantly recognizable black and white birds with large orange beaks — starved to death in the Bering Sea from 2016 to 2017. Now, researchers say climate change is likely an underlying cause of the mass die-off. 

According to a new study in the journal PLOS ONE, from October 2016 through January 2017, birds known as alcids — a group that includes puffins, auklets and other species —  experienced a mass mortality event. Researchers recovered carcasses of more than 350 of the birds on St. Paul Island in Alaska, and they estimate that anywhere from 3,150 to 8,800 birds in total died during the 2-3 month period. 

Scientists found that the birds — mostly tufted puffins and crested auklets — died due to a lack of adequate food supply. The bodies they found were severely underweight, and they believe global warming may be at least partially to blame, indicative of “a changing world.”

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