Marbled Murrelet

by Janet Alexander

The Marbled Murrelet, a small seabird which nests in the coastal, old-growth forests of the Pacific Northwest, is listed as a federally threatened (under the Endangered Species Act) and state endangered species. The birds can be found along the Pacific coast from the Bering Sea down to the central California coast.

The murrelet’s dependence on old-growth nesting habitat and use of coastal marine feeding has greatly impacted populations in California and elsewhere. These birds nest high up in trees, sometimes several miles from the sea. On the water, Marbled Murrelets move about in small groups where they dive for fish and other aquatic animals.

Factors that may be contribute to the species’ decline include loss of suitable nesting habitat, accidental death in fishing nets, oil pollution and spills, increases in predator populations, and declines in food supplies due to El Nino in recent times.

A juvenile murrelet was brought to WCSV in late August by some Peninsula Open Space rangers, who found it wandering at the bottom of a deep ravine. It made no attempt to flee. The ranger recognized the bird as a rare species and made the decision to bring it to the Center to be evaluated. Upon arrival, this bird seemed to be in good condition. He was hydrated, fed some smelt and bedded down for the evening. Once stabilized, he was transferred to International Bird Rescue and Research Facility (IBRR) in Cordelia for further recuperation.

He continued to do so well at IBRR—diving for food, waterproofing, etc., that he was ready to go in just a few short days. He was released on September 5, 2002, at Ano Nuevo where a colony of murrelets was already in existance.

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