A Murre-aculous Success

I can recall the first time seeing the common murres at Yaquina Head. I remember going on my way to the porch of the lighthouse, wondering what that loud noise was. What was all the ruckus? I never would’ve imagined seeing thousands of seabirds… an entire colony of them out in the open water. There must’ve been at least 7,000 of them! I was fascinated by their numbers and how much space they could occupy, despite how small common murres are. I don’t think I can recall ever seeing that many number of birds at once. What shocked me more was the fact that the murres of Yaquina head have been doing poorly in terms of reproduction in the past 5 to 6 years. It was unfathomable for me. How could so many birds fail to hatch and care for a chick? It came to my attention that the eagles wreaked havoc on the murres when they rested on the rocks to lay their eggs and incubate. Thousands of “sitting ducks” waiting for picking. While I hoped for less disturbances from the eagles, it was difficult to blame the bald eagles for the reproductive decline of the murres. It wouldn’t make sense for a bird of prey to ignore easy and reliable source of food. Despite predation, the murres had to weather through harsh winds and pouring rain. I feared the cycle of defeat would repeat once more. I couldn’t be happier to be wrong.

 

The common murres have not only expanded their territory to other rocks of Yaquina Head, but have remained resilient in the face of danger. Perhaps there is power in numbers, but I’d have to credit their success to there persistence in caring for their chicks year. The majority of more than 130 chicks we monitor at Yaquina Head have already “fledged”, in which they have passed the 15 day mark of parental care. While there are more than 130 chicks across all rocks, we can safely say that the common murres have had a successful year at Yaquina Head! I feel lucky to be here, to witness chicks fledge and follow their parents out towards the ocean. It’s been a years of thrills with these birds, and I hope that this wonderful year is the first of many!

Christian Cortez
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