New Murre Bird Colony Discovered at Channel Islands National Park

Saturday, August 13 2011 15:05   California
For the first time in almost 100 years, California Common Murre (Uria aalge californica) chicks have hatched on the Channel Islands, researchers from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and National Park Service (NPS) discovered.

"This is an exciting finding; certainly a historic one," said Josh Adams, a seabird ecologist with the USGS Western Ecological Research Center. "The murres appear to have re-established their former southern range, perhaps benefitting from present ocean conditions."

murre_colony_usgsHistorically, murres nested on Prince Island-a small islet off San Miguel Island within Channel Islands National Park. This colony disappeared around 1912, likely a result of human disturbance and egg harvesting.

In California, Common Murres are most abundant off central through northern California with tens to hundreds of thousands of birds nesting at the Farallon Islands, off Trinidad Head, and at Castle Rock National Wildlife Refuge.

Discovered in July 2011, this new colony was spotted perched on 100-foot-high sea cliffs by Adams and colleagues Laurie Harvey, David Mazurkiewicz, and Jonathan Felis during their research trips to this remote windswept island.

With this murre colony, Prince Island now hosts 13 nesting seabirds, making it one of the most important and biologically diverse nesting habitats on the West Coast of North America.

Using photographic documentation, researchers counted some 125 birds and estimated that over half may be incubating. The first successful chick hatching was observed on July 28, 2011.

Murres are football-sized seabirds with the tuxedo colors of penguins-except they can both fly in the air and dive down to about 500 feet underwater. They use their wings to propel themselves underwater.

For the first two weeks murre chicks are fed by their parents, who dive for anchovies, sardines, and juvenile rockfishes. At the end of two weeks baby murres waddle off the cliff edges to the surf below. They join their fathers, who raise the chicks at sea until they are capable of diving and feeding on their own.

The new colony is situated within Channel Islands National Park, Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, and the recently designated Harris Point California Marine Protected Area.

Seabird biologists will continue to evaluate the future of the Common Murre colony at Prince Island. Partners in this monitoring effort included the Montrose Settlements Restoration Program and the California Institute for Environmental Studies.

Close to the California mainland, Channel Islands National Park encompasses five islands (Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, San Miguel, and Santa Barbara) and their ocean environment, preserving and protecting a wealth of natural and cultural resources.

Transportation to the islands is available year-round only by park concessionaire boats and planes, or by private boat.

Public boat transportation is available to all islands by
Island Packers. Public airplane transportation is available to Santa Rosa Island by Channel Islands Aviation.

Private boaters may land on all five islands within the park throughout the year.

For more information on Channel Islands National Park, visit the Website at .


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