Lures ensure more murres...
For the first time in more than a century, a Common Guillemot Uria aalge - also known as Common Murre - egg has been discovered south of the Canadian border on the east coast of the United States. The egg boosts hopes for the success of valiant efforts to restore the species. "We are absolutely elated”, said Dr Stephen Kress - Director of Audubon’s (BirdLife in the U.S.) Seabird Restoration Program. “The return of the Common Murre to its long-lost nesting grounds shows that conservation works – even against great odds".
The egg was discovered by a volunteer working for Audubon’s Seabird Restoration program on Matinicus Rock, one of 50 islands in Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge. It marks marks the first time since 1883 that the species, which spends most of its life at sea, has nested south of the Canadian border on east coast of the United States.
The volunteer noticed a pair of murres in typical incubating posture surrounded by about 50 murre decoys, and artificial eggs, and close to a sound system that emits murre calls to encourage the long-absent birds to establish new nests. “We have high hopes for the successful hatching and fledging of this egg, and for greater numbers of murres in years to come”, added Dr Kress.
“…conservation works – even against great odds” —Dr Stephen Kress, Director of Audubon’s (BirdLife in the U.S.) Seabird Restoration Program
While widespread on the Pacific coast from Alaska to California, and breeders in Canada’s Maritime Provinces, Common Guillemots were eliminated from their Maine breeding sites in the 1800s by people hunting the birds for food. Collecting of eggs - a popular pursuit at the time - may also have contributed to the disappearance. “Common Murre are especially vulnerable to oil spills and predation, so new colonies within their historic range offer the best assurance for their survival”, said Dr Kress.
Audubon and partners from the Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge have spent 17 years trying to bring the Common Guillemots back to the islands. Regardless of the fate of this specific egg, its presence signals a success story in the making. "Each new colony offers another margin of safety for Common Murres and other seabirds," said Dr Kress.
Common Guillemot are not the first seabird species that Audubon’s Seabird Restoration program have helped restore to Maine. Pioneering the use of decoys and sounds now employed to attract the murres, the team began working to attract Atlantic Puffin Fratercula arctica to the Maine coastal islands in 1973; four breeding pairs nested at Eastern Egg Rock in 1981, after an absence of nearly a century.
Today, Project Puffin protects more than 42,000 of Maine’s rarest seabirds on thirteen islands. Their techniques have also helped establish 12 new tern colonies in Maine and are proving useful for helping endangered seabirds in California, the Galapagos Islands of Ecuador, and Japan. At least 40 seabird species in 12 countries have benefited from seabird restoration techniques developed by Audubon.
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Credits: Global Seabird Programme