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The Green Life: Bringing Back the Birds

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August 10, 2011

Bringing Back the Birds

Common murre Reestablishing animal populations where they’ve declined can be tricky. We can’t reproduce the eco-conditions of yore, and we often don’t understand all the factors in a given ecosystem. We can even end up further damaging the species. Take, for example, the gray wolf controversy in Montana and Idaho, or South Africa's overpopulated elephant reserves.

This is especially true for highly sensitive species like seabirds. So when the USGS announced that the California common murre is breeding in the Channel Islands — the first time the birds have done so there since 1912 — it was cause for excitement.

Murre populations have declined significantly over the last century. The football-sized birds fly, but they also swim on water and dive hundreds of feet, so they're vulnerable to oil spills and other forms of pollution.

In July, however, USGS experts surveying the Channel Islands found 125 murres on Prince Island. Even better, half those birds were nesting.

USGS seabird ecologist Josh Adams says the birds are reestablishing populations because they're “benefitting from present ocean conditions” and improved habitat in the newly protected park — proof that conservation work (and a little patience) truly does pay off.

--Mimi Dwyer


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