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Biologists ask people not to disturb or pick up fledgling common murres on Oregon beaches

*Updated Aug. 18 for additional context

Common murre fledgling
ODFW asks beachgoers to refrain from picking up dead or dying common murres. USDA Wildlife Services photo.

August 16, 2023

CHARLESTON, Ore – Oregon coast visitors are seeing many dead and dying fledgling common murres right now on state beaches. Some commercial fishermen report also seeing this at sea.

At this time of the year, the young birds are trying to survive on their own for the first time. It's not uncommon to get reports of some sick or dying birds say Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists.

The severity of this year's event is uncommon and may be related to a combination of a large production year for common murres and extremely warm ocean conditions along the Oregon coast.

Warm ocean temperatures generally have a negative impact on the production of food in the lowest levels of the food web. That impact trickles up through the food web affecting many species, including common murres.  

Biologists say most of the young birds they've seen appear to be starving or cold, however samples were sent to ODFW's Wildlife Population Health Lab for further examination. Without proper nutrition, the young birds cannot maintain their body heat. And while ocean temperatures are warmer, the water is still below the average body temperature of these birds.

ODFW is concerned about the situation and is actively monitoring it coastwide, including beach surveys over the last few days. People can report observations and locations of sick or dead common murres to local ODFW offices.

ODFW asks that people refrain from disturbing or picking up sick or dying birds. Rehabilitation options are limited due to capacity at wildlife centers and concerns about the potential spread of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), which is still circulating in Oregon, or other diseases.

The common murre is Oregon's most abundant seabird and is considered a species of Low Conservation Concern according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Oregon's population of common murres has been doing well in recent years in many places along the Oregon coast, according to USFS data, especially on the south coast. However, there are places along the north coast like Yaquina Head where the population has been struggling with predation resulting in very low chick survival the past few years.

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Contact: Meghan Dugan (South Coast), 541-315-6629, meghan.c.dugan@odfw.oregon.gov
Beth Quillian (North Coast), 503-804-0841 beth.s.quillian@odfw.oregon.gov
 
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