The massive die-off of a widely distributed North Pacific seabird continues to surprise federal scientists.

The latest twist was the discovery of thousands of carcasses of common murres (murz) along a freshwater Alaska lake.

U.S. Geological Survey research wildlife biologist John Piatt (PEYE-at) says an estimated 6,000 to 8,000 carcasses were counted last month on the shore of Lake Iliamna (il-ee-AHM-nah) in southwest Alaska.

Common murres spend winters at sea. Piatt says if he saw a murre in a lake he would conclude it was a misguided individual, but to have more than 6,000 in a lake mind-blowing.

Federal agencies are trying to determine why common murres are apparently starving.

The confirmed carcass count is up to 36,000 and researchers say that's probably a fraction of the deaths.