Fish & Wildlife | Ecotrope

Blundering Pelicans Cause More Murre Losses

Ecotrope | Aug. 5, 2011 4:03 a.m. | Updated: Feb. 19, 2013 1:36 p.m.

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A brown pelican lands and flaps his wings causing murres to scatter off their colony. Courtesy OSU.

A brown pelican lands and flaps his wings causing murres to scatter off their colony. Courtesy OSU.

 

A “jaw dropping turn of events” is how Oregon State University Asst. Professor Rob Suryan describes it. He’s in charge of a team keeping tabs on how successful common murres are at reproducing this year.

Last week should have been the last week for chicks to fledge and leave the nest. But brown pelicans interfered in a big way.

The pelicans landed on Colony Rock and Flattop Rock off Yaquina Head causing large disturbances to the common murres nesting there. “Disturbance” is science speak for “freak out and fly for your lives!” Adult murres dive for the ocean. There’s safety in the water. Once adult murres flee, predators swoop in to eat the chicks and eggs they left behind.

Bald eagles have already caused plenty of disturbance to this giant colony of seabirds. Pelicans are new.

Vultures and ravens seize the opportunity to steal eggs and chicks when adult murres get scared off their colony. Courtesy OSU.

Vultures and ravens seize the opportunity to steal eggs and chicks when adult murres get scared off their colony. Courtesy OSU.

 

Some chicks that were not eaten were pushed prematurely into the ocean where they did not survive.

The breeding season is over now. No more chicks remain at Yaquina Head. Those that survived are now swimming out to sea where they will spend most of their lives until breeding season lures them back to the rocks again.

 

You can watch Oregon Field Guide‘s earlier story on Eagles vs Murres here:

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