Fledgling Marbled Murrelet Reaches the Sea Unconventionally

Early Monday morning the phone rang at Humboldt Wildlife Care Center. It was Lynn Roberts of the US Fish and Wildlife Service, a biologist who specializes in locally threatened Marbled Murrelets (Brachyramphus marmoratus). Tourists in Prairie Creek State Park, an important area for these seabirds who nest high in the strong limbs of old-growth Redwoods, had found who they believed was a Marbled Murrelet fledgling in the middle of Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway, which wends through the park’s ancient groves. Lynn was going to bring the young seabird to our clinic as soon as she had him in her care.

Marbled Murrelets are one of the most unusual seabirds. They make nesting in trees seem strange! While most seabirds nest on rocky cliffs and islands, in the portion of their Pacific coastal range that is forested, from Southeast Alaska to the southernmost point just north of Santa Cruz, B. marmoratus nests primarily in the high horizontal branches that can only be found in very old trees, the Sitka Spruce (Picea sitchensis), Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii), Western Hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla), and our region’s coastal Redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens) as far as 60 miles inland from the sea. Parents fly each day from the ocean where they dive for fish back to the nest to feed their growing chicks. When their chicks fledge, they must leave the nest and make it to the Pacific on their first flight. This is a natural challenge that all Marbled Murrelet chicks have faced for millions of years and for which they are very well suited.

[Want to help ensure that Humboldt Wildlife Care Center is always open and ready to care for our wild neighbors in trouble? You can click here now to make a donation today! Thank you!]

However new challenges in the last 150 years have had a terrible impact both on the coastal Redwoods and their nesting seabirds. Approximately five per cent of the Redwood forest that was thriving here in the mid 19th century remains. What is left is punctured by roads, surrounded by continued industrial logging, and threatened by development. And in the ocean, climate change, agricultural run-off, plastic pollution and other modern disasters that have no relief in sight mean that B. marmoratus has no escape from the devastation caused by colonialism, resource extraction, and a culture-wide myopic disregard for the natural systems that sustain all life.

The endangered status of Redwoods (International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Redlist) and Marbled Murrelets (IUCN Redlist, US Endangered Species Act threatened) increases the stakes when a young Murrelet is in trouble. While it is true that we treat each of our patients with dignity, respect and with the knowledge that every individual experiences her or his own existence as central, threatened and endangered species receive significantly more attention from the agencies (USFWS, CDFW) whose task is their protection when they are admitted for care.

For this Murrelet chick, given the cool and foggy night that the bird was found, it’s possible that the damp pavement of the road looked deceptively like open water, tricking the young bird into landing. Once on the ground, there is no way for a Murrelet or almost any other seabird who needs open water and a running start in order to take off to regain the sky. Were it not for the people who scooped the fledgling off the road, this is likely where the young bird’s short life would’ve ended.

Getting ready to go to Sea! Not how most Murrelets get there, but any port in a storm!

Instead, the youngster was found! And soon after calling our clinic, Lynn Roberts showed up with one of these precious and few ambassadors of sea and forest in a box with a soft towel. During the admission examination we discovered no problems at all. This young Murrelet was in good health and without any injuries. All s/he needed was help getting to the ocean. We provided hydration and a safe place to rest until arrangements for transport to sea could be made.

Lynn contacted some local sea kayak enthusiasts who volunteer with USFWS. They were ready and willing to take this bird out to a safe location just beyond the rocks and surf near Trinidad.

USFWS Biologist Lynn Roberts discusses with the volunteer kayakers where best to to take the young Seabird.

The young Murrelet is secured to the kayak for a paddle out to sea.

There are a lot of passionate, committed people working very hard to ensure that Marbled Murrelets continue to be a part of our shared world. In these trying times, it is good to know that compassion and love for the wild aren’t rare!

The Sea: home to Marbled Murrelets and mother to us all. 

It isn’t everyday that we have the opportunity and need to help such an endangered and helpless young bird find their way home. But everyday we do help whoever comes through our door. The day we admitted the young Murrelet we also admitted a cat-caught Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia), a beached Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus), a Big Brown Bat (Eptesicus fuscus) found inside someone’s living room, and a Green Heron (Butorides virescens) who was found severely injured on the bank of the Eel river in Southern Humboldt County. It isn’t easy work. Often we have joyful tasks with wonderful results, such as the care we provided this Marbled Murrelet, yet just as often we have difficult tasks with heartbreaking outcomes – such as ushering that Green Heron whose injuries were too severe to successfully treat into the next realm.

No matter what our tasks, we would not be able to complete them without your support. Your generosity keeps the only all-species wildlife hospital between Santa Rosa and the Oregon border open and ready to help our wild neighbors when they’re injured by the machinery of our world. Your donation is appreciated more than we can say! Donate today! Thank you!

all photos: Laura Corsiglia/BAX


Passenger Pigeon on the 100th Anniversary of Extinction

© Louis Agassiz Fuertes

On September 1, 1914, The last known Passenger Pigeon (Ectopistes migratorius), who had been given the name Martha by the Cincinnati Zoo, died in captivity. She was 29 years old. She’d never raised young. When she died, so did the species. As the bumper sticker reminds us, extinction is forever. After 100 years, Passenger Pigeons are just beginning to be extinct. 100 years before the death of this last female, the Passenger Pigeon may have been the most numerous bird species on the planet.

Numbering in the billions these beautiful and highly social birds filled the skies and the dense deciduous forests of the East. Now the skies are filled with satellites, aircraft and far too many parts per million and the forests are shattered.

For North Americans born in the 20th or 21st centuries, our childhoods are filled with stories of the days when this or that species was so abundant that you could walk across the river on their backs, or it took days for the flock to pass, or the herd stretched from horizon to horizon, or the sun was darkened by their shadow. We hear these stories and wonder what they could mean. Our world is so much emptier now, we can barely imagine this – yet these stories are largely true. The American Buffalo (Bison bison), Eskimo Curlew (Numenius borealis), Great Auk (Pinguinus impennis), Carolina Parakeet (Conuropsis carolinensis) – each of these species were once common, some so common that it was inconceivable at the time that they could ever be threatened with extinction. This is the important fact. In our time we protect (if we do) the threatened and the endangered species, but as we see, it’s the common species, the ones we take for granted, who’ve been driven to extinction by the thoughtless machine that grips us.

On this sad anniversary, why not take a vow to break free of the machine’s soulless grasp? Vow to be a bird ally, a wild ally. Live an authentic human life in the blaze of reality. What else is there?

To learn more about these species, and the terrible history of industrial civilization, start here:





Protect Gray Wolves under California Endangered Species Act

In 2011, something very dramatic happened in California, something that hadn’t occurred since 1924. A wild wolf tread on our land. OR-7, perhaps as famous now as any other wolf ever has been, traveled into Northeast California that year and stayed through most of 2012. OR-7, or Journey, as he was named by school children to help protect him from poachers, dispersed from his birth area of Northeast Oregon eventually traveling over 1000 miles to the northern counties of California

The only known photograph of OR-7 in California (source California Dept of Fish and Wildlife)

The presence of OR-7 in California sparked the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), Big Wildlife, the Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC), and the Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center to petition the California Fish and Game Commission to include the Gray Wolf as an endangered species in California under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA) as they make their anticipated recovery.

Now OR-7 is possibly mated and raising pups in the Rogue River National Forest. If so, another layer of criticality is added to our concerns. Pups that eventually disperse from Southern Oregon will surely enter California. The need for protection of this obviously endangered species will be even more apparent.

Bird Ally X/Humboldt Wildlife Care Center (BAX) stands with CBD, EPIC and the other petitioners in their call for CESA protection using the science of ecosystem-based management; that is, that wolves and other apex predators are a necessary and desirable component of healthy watersheds, forests, and range, and warrant state-specific legal protection in California. We agree with the petitioners that all things point to listing the Gray Wolf as endangered in California.

The only thing that stands in the way of wolf recovery in our state is the space that we provide them. That space has a name: endangered species protection.

It is an easy observation that habitat must be given to wolves if they are to have a place in our shared world. It may be less easy to see that a similar space must be provided within the public mind. California’s returning Gray Wolves must be invited, if they are to be welcome.

We respectfully disagree with the assertion that adequate protection for wolves is achievable through a variety of obscure regulatory codes. Public ignorance was the key factor in the extirpation of California Gray Wolves. A critical feature of the wolf’s recovery must be public education.

However important regulation, enforcement, and administration are in protecting endangered species, CESA is more than this – it is also a tool for public awareness, public education and the expression of the values of the citizens of California.

As wildlife rehabilitators, BAX strongly supports and promotes co-existence with our wild neighbors. Our commitment to our patients requires our allegiance to the health and well-being of all wildlife. If we are to effectively advocate for California’s natural heritage, we need the cooperation of the state. Listing the Gray Wolf as endangered will provide not only the legal protection wolves need, but also the framework for a better understanding of the contributions predators, and all wild animals, make toward the health and beauty of our lives and our world.

As wildlife rehabilitators, each day we talk with members of the public resolving conflicts between people and wildlife. A sparrow nest in the chimney, a raccoon in the backyard, a shopping plaza that destroys a colony of nesting herons – these and myriad other scenarios await us every time the phone rings. Each time, we must advocate for wild animals, for the laws that protect them, and for the best possible outcome, which includes greater understanding and appreciation for the natural world that sustains us. The best possible outcome includes greater respect for wildlife and wild space.

These experiences on the front line of wildlife protection teach us that rescuing endangered species is much more easily accomplished using tools that speak to each of us. The language of endangerment cuts across all cultures and perspectives. When we say that a species requires special protection, we either mean it or we don’t. We are either welcoming the wolf home to California, or we are not. If we are, then we must provide the welcome that will make a real difference, not just in the Fish and Game Code, but in the understanding of the people who must yield something so that the wolf might live. Only listing Gray Wolves as endangered can do that.

As do most Californians, from enthusiastic open space lovers, such as those of us who call Humboldt home, to the urbane citizens of the world class cities to our South, we look forward with excitement to the restoration and recovery of the Gray Wolf to their historic home in our state.


Speak up for Wolves!

It is reasonable to conclude California may host a functioning pack of Wolves within ten years.*

Listing of Wolves in California is absolutely inevitable.**



* Chuck Bonham, Director, California Department of Fish And Wildlife

** Richard Rogers, Commissioner, California Fish and Game Commission


California’s first wolf in 90 years may have pups in Oregon!

OR-7, in one of the only photos taken while he was in California (photo: CDFW)

Exciting news! OR-7, or Journey, the most famous wolf in the world, first wild wolf in western Oregon since the 1940s as well as the first wild wolf in California since 1924, may have finally found what he was looking for: a mate!

As reported today, biologists tracking Journey since he was a pup in Northeast Oregon have strong evidence that the wandering male has met up with a black female wolf in the Rogue River/Siskiyou National Forest in Southwest Oregon. While it isn’t confirmed that they are denning or have pups, their movements, still being captured by Journey’s radio-collar, indicate the strong possibility. It will be mid-summer before biologists will approach the pair to see if they have pups.