Murrelet takes flight, thanks to a little help

A grounded marbled murrelet chick has taken wing thanks to the collaborative efforts of several coast organizations.

The marbled murrelet, Brachyramphus marmoratus, is listed as threatened under both the Federal and State Endangered Species Act. Thanks to the dedicated efforts of volunteers and wildlife professionals, this vulnerable seabird was successfully recovered, rehabilitated, and released after it was found on the ground in the forest.

“It is not normal for a murrelet to be on the beach or on the forest floor,” said Jonathan Dachenhaus, Oregon Marbled Murrelet Project (OMMP) Faculty Research Assistant. “If a member of the public finds a murrelet on the ground, either on the beach or in the forest, they should contact their local wildlife rehab facility or their local wildlife agency.”

The OMMP field research team was initially concerned when they observed an empty nest on a routine monitoring check in the Suislaw National Forest, but discovered the grounded chick nearby still alive and alert. The team examined the bird and transported it to the Oregon Coast Aquarium (OCAq).

Video of the murrelet’s release may be found on the Aquarium’s Youtube channel

OCAq aviculturists noted the bird was in good condition, but required longer term care. The Aquarium partners with other facilities in its rehabilitation efforts, and once the murrelet was cleared for transport, volunteers took the bird to Wildlife Center of the North Coast (WCNC), located in Astoria, Oregon.

Upon arrival to WCNC, the chick underwent additional exams, weight and temperature checks. The bird was given fluids and housed in an incubator for warmth until its temperature stabilized. WCNC staff fed the bird small slivers of herring several times daily until it began to take food on its own; the team then focused on waterproofing the murrelet. Staff washed the bird to remove contaminants, allowing it to start preening effectively. Several days later, its feathers were completely waterproof, prompting release plans.

Volunteers transported the bird back to OCAq, where the research vessel Gracie Lynn was prepped for voyage. OMMP staff applied an identification band to the bird’s leg, and the crew set out for Yaquina Head.

Upon spotting other marbled murrelets bobbing on the water, the vessel slowed and Dachenhaus cupped the bird in his hands. With a gentle upward lift, the bird soared. Four weeks after its discovery at the base of its nest tree, the marbled murrelet reached the sea.

“It was a true team effort,” said Ginger Nealon, WCNC Wildlife Rehabilitator.

About the Oregon Marbled Murrelet Project
The Oregon Marbled Murrelet Program was initiated by the Oregon State University College of Forestry, with the aim to learn more about space use and reproductive success of marbled murrelets in Oregon. OMMP’s mission is to provide new scientific information that advances understanding of the breeding habitat requirements of marbled murrelets in Oregon and informs conservation and forest management planning within coastal forests.

About Wildlife Center of the North Coast
Wildlife Center of the North Coast is a non-profit wildlife hospital in Astoria, Oregon committed to promoting compassion, empathy, and respect for all life through wildlife rehabilitation, ecological teachings, and wildlife conservation. Over the past 25 years, WCNC has rescued thousands of animals and provided educational opportunities to hundreds of community members on the north Oregon Coast. WCNC specializes in wildlife rehabilitation of native and migratory birds, mammals, and other creatures naturally occurring in Oregon, and receive an average of 1,000 patients annually.

About Oregon Coast Aquarium
Since opening in 1992 in Newport, the Oregon Coast Aquarium has been a premier attraction on Oregon’s central coast and an enduring advocate for the health of the ocean. For over three decades, this non-profit organization has supported marine wildlife and fostered environmental stewardship through its education programs, community partnerships, and rehabilitation efforts. Accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, the Oregon Coast Aquarium is consistently ranked as one of the top 10 aquariums in the U.S., providing visitors with opportunities to connect with 15,000 animals spanning 300 different species.