The raucous laughter of the Common Murre rings out from a nesting colony, high on a narrow ledge on a sea cliff. Precarious as their nest site is, Common Murres nest by the thousands along the Pacific Coast, perhaps millions north along the Bering Sea. Their eggs are pointed at one end and
Imagine the nesting cliff of Common Murres, 100 feet above the ocean. Suddenly, a small murre chick, only three weeks old and just one-quarter the weight of an adult, lunges off the cliff, gliding clumsily to the water below. Soon other chicks follow, splashing into the sea. The chicks'
Fifty years ago, on the shores of Puget Sound, you would have been much more likely than today to hear the calls of the Black Brant, a small, elegant tidewater goose. Most now bypass Puget Sound and other West Coast estuaries, and migrate directly to Mexico. Shoreline development, wetland
Named for its rhythmic calls, the Black-legged Kittiwake as it is known in North America - it's also known as the Common Kittiwake - is a dapper, oceanic gull. As described by Roger Tory Peterson, the tips of its pale gray wings "are cut straight across, as if they had been dipped in ink."
Black Oystercatchers prey on shellfish in the wave zone, especially mussels and limpets. The waves cause mussels to open often, making them easier to eat. The Black Oystercatcher nests on ledges just off shore, and its eggs and young suffer far less predation by mammals. Contrary to their
Brown Pelicans fly just above the surface of the water. They circle high, then diving headfirst, plunge under water to catch fish. But doesn't that hurt? Several adaptations protect pelicans as they dive. First, they have air sacs beneath the skin on their breasts, which act as cushions
During the winter of 2009-2010, thousands of Brown Pelicans washed ashore on Pacific beaches, wet, cold, starving. Fierce storms, thought to be more frequent because of global climate change, probably made it difficult for the birds to feed. And storm-water runoff washed oil and pollutants
Buffleheads have returned for the winter, down from the boreal forests of the north where they breed. These birds are monogamous and often return to the same wintering area. Buffleheads breed on small lakes and ponds in the boreal forest. In winter, the Bufflehead is most often found in
While the Bald Eagle may be the biggest story of conservation success in the 20th century, it's made life tough for some colonial seabirds. All the eagles have to do is soar by the cliff, and it causes panic, scaring birds off their nests. Then gulls and crows swoop in and get the eggs
Tony Angell writes: "I was standing opposite a peregrine falcon's cliffside nest ... the female falcon, carrying prey, flew into a stand of madronas overhead. It was early ... and the hungry youngster had yet to be fed. Seeing the meal she had, the nestling responded with wing flapping and