Wind Blows for Birds
High winds blamed for sea bird strandings.
Friday, April 17, 2009
The fierce winds that chilled Monterey Peninsula residents earlier this week might also have blown more than two dozen sea birds off course.
The International Bird Rescue Research Center in Northern Californa received 24 sick sea birds between April 14-16, when coastal winds were unusually strong. Most of the IBRRC's new patients are Brandt's cormorants—the black, long-necked birds that typically congregate on the boulders rising from the near-shore Monterey Bay waters. Many were found in places they shouldn't be: parking lots and roads, rather than beaches.
Meanwhile, researchers at the Farallon Islands say the birds have not yet started nesting there, as they should by this time of year. That is especially worrisome because last year saw the cormorants' smallest breeding population and lowest reproductive success in 20 years.
The cormorant strandings are reminiscent of the strandings of more than 400 endangered brown pelicans that puzzled wildlife biologists over the winter. A cold snap at the Oregon-Washington border eventually emerged as the primary suspect.
"A higher than normal number of patients always signifies a greater problem, as was the case this winter with the scores of ailing pelicans," states a recent IBRRC press release about the cormorant strandings. "While it is premature to say exactly why so many of these birds are falling ill, Jay Holcomb, director of the aquatic bird facility, believes the recent high winds may have contributed to the strandings."
As IBRRC treats the cormorants, it asks for donations to help cover their costs. People who discover injured or stranded birds should report them by calling (707) 207-0380.