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Biologists research why high number of common murres die along Oregon’s coast

A bunch of birds standing around.
Photo courtesy of Roy Lowe
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Common murres can be found in clusters along Oregon's coast, particularly in Newport.

Oregon biologists say a large number of young common murres are dying along the coast. They’re asking the public to leave the black-and-white seabirds alone as they try to survive.

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife officials say it’s not unusual to find young murres struggling around this time of year, as fledglings leave their nests and try to make it on their own. And this year’s numbers of dying or sick birds are higher than usual.

Researchers say an extremely warm ocean along Oregon’s coast could be a factor, as warmer temperatures can kill the fish and crustaceans that the birds rely on for food.

The sick murres found so far appear to be starving and cold. Without proper nutrition, they can struggle to maintain their body heat.

Even with this apparent die-off, common murres continue to have a thriving population in Oregon, according to biologists. They’re one of the state’s most abundant nesting seabirds. They look similar to penguins but with all-black faces and long, pointy beaks.

The highest concentration of common murres in Oregon can be found at Colony Rock in Newport in the summer. They can also be found in Bandon.

Biologists are encouraging the public to leave struggling murres alone because that will ensure they have a chance at survival. ODFW officials say rehabilitation isn’t an option for common murres, since their populations in the state are generally abundant.

Copyright 2023 Oregon Public Broadcasting.

April Ehrlich began freelancing for Jefferson Public Radio in the fall of 2016, and then officially joined the team as its Morning Edition Host and a Jefferson Exchange producer in August 2017.
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