Monitoring seabird chicks

The cormorants and the Common Murres at Yaquina Head Natural Area have chicks! Most of them are about three –four weeks old which means they are almost ready to fledge!

The Brandt’s and Pelagic Cormorants have had a great success this year. Although these birds were the hardest to monitor when they were on eggs, monitoring their chicks has been a piece of cake. Their long necks always stick out of the nest and when there is more than one, parents are always having to re-accommodate. The chicks are now as big as their parents and are now standing outside. In the coming week, they will all be walking around the rock getting ready to fledge.

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Adult Pelagic Cormorant with four chicks on nest.

The same cannot be said about the murres, however. Every Monday, all members from the avian oceonagraphy lab at Oregon State University plus a handful of volunteers, conduct murre chick watches for twelve hours. During this watches, not only do we watch chick feedings and parental care, but we have also seen the destruction of one of the murre colonies, Flat Top. That’s right, destruction because only 1% of this colony remains intact. The rest, constantly gets evacuated every time there is a Bald Eagle disturbance.  We have lost all six plots in that colony and we have observed juvenile eagles eat dozens of chicks! Sometimes it’s hard to concentrate on watching the chicks, when out of the corner of our eyes we see six Bald Eagles on FlatTop terrorizing the murres.

It has been both painful and exciting to watch all of this action. We first started to do chick watches on Flat Top but since there is almost no birds left, we have moved to doing them on Colony Rock.  Chicks in this colony have been doing great and so far , all of the monitored eggs that hatched are still growing.

Murre chicks on Flat Top seem immune to western gull intimidation

Murre chicks on Flat Top seem immune to Western Gull intimidation

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