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When we think of avian migration, we generally think of birds in flight. But Common Murres migrate north by swimming. Some Pacific Coast murres paddle north to the sheltered bays of the Strait of Juan de Fuca to feed on herring and other small fish. During their ocean migration, the adult male murres molt their flight feathers and — like the chicks they shepherd — cannot fly. Heading north, they live on the sea. Imagine! A journey that spans two months and may cover hundreds of miles.
Murres' Swimming Migration - with Bob Boekelheide
Written by Todd Peterson
This is BirdNote.
[Calls of Common Murre chicks and sounds of waves]
When we think of avian migration, we think of birds in flight. But certain groups of seabirds called Common Murres migrate north by swimming. Some Pacific Coast Murres paddle north to the sheltered bays of the Strait of Juan de Fuca to feed on herring and other small fish. [Calls of Common Murre chicks]
Bob Boekelheide, Director of the Dungeness River Audubon Center in Sequim, Washington, explains:
T57; 2:19 It turns out that when Common Murres go to sea with their chicks, the chicks are only maybe three, three and a half weeks old. These small chicks jump off the cliffs, land in the water… The adult parent that goes with the chick is the father, and at that time the father will swim with the chick…. There are no colonies of Common Murres in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, so they had to come here from … colonies out there on the outer coast. Well the interesting thing about it is that these Murres do not fly here as far as we know. At that point the chick cannot fly. They’re only a third grown from their normal adult size. … And so they swim in the water from the outer coastline, certainly from the coast of Washington and perhaps as far as Oregon and maybe even Northern California traveling north along the coast and eventually ending up in the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
[Calls of Common Murre chicks]
Heading north, they live on the sea. Imagine! A journey that spans two months and may cover hundreds of miles. [Calls of Common Murre chick and parent]
For BirdNote, I’m Michael Stein.
Sounds of Common Murres provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Call of adult and chick at sea recorded by T.G. Sander; sound of a colony 137898 by M. Fisher.
BirdNote’s theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Chris Peterson
© 2015 Tune In to Nature.org July 2015 / 2021 Narrator: Michael Stein