It’s been almost 100 years since the California common murre chicks have hatched on the Channel Islands, but researchers have discovered the that bird species has re-established its former southern range on far oft Prince Island, a small islet off San Miguel Island.
Ecologists from the USGS and NPS are gushing like proud parents about the colony because the birds disappeared from the island about 1912 – probably because we humans barged in and disrupted their hatcheries and habitats.
Discovered in July, the new colony was spotted perched on a 100-foot high sea cliff. Researchers counted as many as 125 birds and estimated that more than half that number may be incubating. Ecologists even had the joy to witness a chick hatching in late July as well.
With this new addition, tiny Prince Island plays home to 13 nesting seabirds, one of the most diverse nesting habitats on the West Coast of North America. 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.
Murres are common is Northern California where tens to hundreds of thousands of them nest at the Farallon Islands, off Trinidad Head, and at Castle Rock National Wildlife Refuge.
Southern California hasn’t been as lucky with playing host to these football-sized seabirds that can fly in the air and, with wings as propellers, dive down to about 500 feet underwater. But maybe things are changing.
We can’t wait to see if the National Park Service installs webcams– just like they do for eagles on other Channel Islands – for murre watching.
— B.R., photo from U.S. Fish and Wildlife