Murre seabirds have reestablished a breeding ground on the Channel Islands for the first time since 1912.
It's a big deal, says USGS seabird ecologist Josh Adams, because these are birds of habit who tend to nest in the same places. "You don’t see natural recolonization events in seabird populations that often," he says.
The California Common Murre - pronounced "mur" after the sound they make - suffered declines along the California Coast in the late 1800's and early 1900's because their distinctive turquoise eggs were prized by egg hunters. Adams says their fortunes continued to decline because they spend 95-99% of their life swimming on the surface of the water and are particularly susceptible to oil pollution and gillnet fishing.
It was 1991 when scientists first observed a Murre on the Channel Islands, though it only briefly touched down. "Then in about 2004 there started to be occurrences of more than one, a few, a dozen standing on the rocks. And then by this year we noticed a significant number of them starting to stand there and hold territories."
Finally this summer Adams was there with colleagues and they saw about 125 of them on a rock cliff about 100 feet up. The researchers documented about half of them incubating eggs.