Courtesy of International Bird Rescue
Common Murre adults and chicks swim in a recovery pool at International Bird Rescue’s Fairfield facility. The rescue has received more than 100 of the waterbirds recently. They birds were suffering from starvation and injuries.
An adult common murre rehabs at the International Bird Rescue. (Courtesy of International Bird Rescue)
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Workers carefully and gently wash contaminants from a common murre chick. (Courtesy of International Bird Rescue)
Common murre chicks on their first day of waterproofing. The birds have lost some of their natural ability to keep the chilled water from their skin and their feathers have to be carefully arranged back into place. The murres are often mistaken for penguins, but these birds can fly as well as dive 200 feet down in search of fish. (Courtesy of International Bird Rescue)
Common murre adults and chicks in the pool. (Courtesy of International Bird Rescue)
Two young common murre chicks appear to share a tender moment as they recover from starvation. (Courtesy of International Bird Rescue)
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It’s shaping up to be another rough year for aquatic birds, as witnessed by the nonprofit International Bird Rescue headquartered in Fairfield.
Officials with International Bird Rescue says more than 100 of the penguin-like birds have been admitted into intensive care at the Fairfield center. They are starving, and many of them are chicks with contaminated feathers that need to be delicately washed.
Reports of starving waterbirds is always a concern, rescue officials say. An altered climate and changing ocean environments can affect birds as their usual fish stocks move farther from their breeding grounds.
Common murres — the name rhymes with furs — are often confused with penguins, as they share some of the same coloring and shape. Unlike penguins, however, murres can fly in the air as well as swim underwater.
Murre populations in many areas have suffered in recent years because of declines in their food supply; the birds are vulnerable to water pollution and often are a victim of oil spills. Murres breed on rocky cliffs along the coast and up to the Bering Sea. The Farallon Islands, 30 miles out from San Francisco, is home to a large breeding colony of murres.
Three weeks after they are born, but before they can fly, young murres leave the nest with their fathers to learn how to forage for fish. They eventually become superb divers, using their wings to propel themselves under and through the water. Murres can dive more than 200 feet below the surface in their hunt for fish.
International Bird Rescue was founded in 1971 when 800,000 gallons of crude oil spilled into the bay. A group concerned about the wildlife caught up in the oil spill, led by registered nurse Alice Berkner, sprung into action to rescue and treat the hundreds of oil-covered birds. Those efforts led to the formation of Bird Rescue.
The group is credited with pioneering life-saving techniques and treatments for injured waterbirds, setting standards and practices that are now followed by wildlife rescue groups. Bird Rescue also responds to disasters around the world. The group’s mission is to inspire people to act toward balance with the natural world by rescuing waterbirds in crisis.
International Bird Rescue is funded through grants and gifts, and caring for the murres and other aquatic birds is an expensive undertaking. The murres require constant feedings and specialized care, including warm water pools, washes, tube feedings, waterproofing monitoring, and medications and vitamin supplements.
If you see a sick or injured waterbird, call your local animal control or contact Bird Rescue directly at 707-207-0380. Animal control, animal rescue groups and other wildlife rehabilitation organizations work with Bird Rescue to get the birds into its care.
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