Officials with International Bird Rescue said staff members are treating more hungry and exhausted young Common Murres at the rescue’s Fairfield wildlife hospital this summer.
More than 100 murres have been admitted to intensive care at the San Francisco Bay-Delta Wildlife Center in Fairfield.
The birds are starving and many chicks have contaminated feathers from oil and bilge in the water along the Northern California Coast from Monterey Bay north to Marin County, spokesman Russ Curtis said.
The recent increase in the arrival of murres is among the 2,500 water birds treated at International Bird Rescue’s centers in Fairfield and Los Angeles.
Murres are starving because altered climate and changing ocean environments cause fish stocks to move farther from the birds’ feeding grounds. People see the birds on the beach and they bring them to International Bird Rescue, Curtis said.
“We feed and wash them and give supportive care, but we can’t stop the shortage of fish,” Curtis said.
“We usually get some murres in May, but it picked up in July when we got 60 to 70 in a week or two. It’s not slowing down,” Curtis said. The young murres that are dehydrated are fed a mash then capelin and other small fish, Curtis said.
Murres are dark, two-toned birds that are sometimes confused with penguins. They can fly in the air three weeks after birth and “fly” underwater by using their wings to propel themselves.
Murres breed on rocky cliffs along northern coastal waters up to the Bering Sea, and a large breeding colony is located on the Farallon Islands, 30 miles from San Francisco.
The young murres leave their nest with their fathers to learn how to forage for fish. They are superb divers as adults and can dive as deep as 200 feet below the ocean surface.
In addition to constant feeding, International Bird Rescue provides warm water pools, washes, medications and vitamin supplements.
“We give the birds a second chance,” Curtis said.
International Bird Rescue relies on public donations, some state grants and corporate sponsors for funding. An anonymous donor recently gave $50,000, and donations can match that amount at https://www.givinggrid.com/emurregency.