by Kevin Mack, PAWS Wildlife Naturalist
On July 3, a small black and white bird
sat alone in the parking lot of the Washington State surplus store in
Auburn, WA. A fledgling, he was undoubtedly confused and perhaps a
little tired. The bird was a member of a species that is not usually
associated with parking lots and, due to loss of habitat and declining
numbers, is certainly not associated with the word "surplus." He had
most likely flown from a nest site in a patch of old growth forest
miles to the east. His infancy and early childhood would have been
spent in a mossy depression on the branch of an ancient tree, or
perhaps on the mossy forest floor. His flight was to take him from the
confines of his nest to the freedom of the open sea, but it had ended
prematurely. He would have been flying at night on this first journey
to the sea, and he may have mistaken the wet pavement of the parking
lot for a body of water. Another possibility is that he was confused by
the flashes and explosions of fireworks in the pre-Independence Day
sky, or perhaps he was just too tired to continue flying. Whatever the
case, there he sat—a threatened bird in a threatening situation. He was
a juvenile Marbled Murrelet, and he was about to get a helping hand.
The murrelet's plight was noticed by a
concerned citizen who scooped him up and placed him in a box. He was
transported to PAWS and entered into the wildlife center database as
case #08-1408. Upon admission, murrelet 08-1408 was found to be
slightly thin, but injury-free. He was bright, alert and very feisty
when handled. He was treated for slight dehydration, but did not
require any medications or additional medical care. Since a murrelet's
anatomy is better adapted to floating on water than sitting on dry
land, the young bird was placed in a cage with a special net bottom
that would help prevent him from developing foot abrasions and pressure
sores. The next day he swam, possibly for the first time in his young
On July 4 the murrelet was placed in a
large pool. The experience must have been somewhat overwhelming for him
and possibly quite puzzling. With such a powerful instinctual drive to
get to open saltwater, I'm certain that an 8-foot diameter pool felt
very wrong to him. Unfortunately, due to our need to give him a
thorough assessment, the murrelet would have to wait another 24 hours
before his captivity would end. He spent the rest of that day swimming
and periodically resting while being offered an all-he-could eat buffet
of krill and fish.
The next morning, diagnostic blood work
showed that the Marbled Murrelet was in excellent health. During his
time in the pool he had demonstrated that he was a good swimmer and
capable diver. As he may not have yet had to capture his own food up to
that point in his life, one last test remained. After several live fish
were placed in the murrelet's pool, he removed any doubts we may have
had about his ability to feed himself. There was no reason to delay him
any longer. It was time for him to embark on the last leg of his
A short car ride brought the murrelet
to the open saltwater he was seeking. As he was removed from his
transport carrier his tiny body was completely covered by the hands
that held him. He was gently placed into the waters of Puget Sound and
he appeared to immediately recognize this place to which he had never
been. He dove, disappearing beneath the water's surface for a full
minute before resurfacing about 20 yards from shore. To my eyes he had
become a different animal than he had been in the pool at PAWS Wildlife
Center. His movements were more energetic and sure. There was no
hesitancy or confusion to be seen. He continued to dive and resurface
until he was a tiny speck on the water far offshore. I wished him well
as I left him to enjoy his own personal Independence Day.
When he was not in the water, the Marbled Murrelet was housed in a cage with a soft net bottom.
After a short stay at the PAWS Wildlife Center, the Marbled Murrelet was given a clean bill of health.
The bird was released into Puget Sound and he swam confidently away.
PAWSwalk is coming and we need your help!
The 17th annual PAWSwalk fundraising event will take place on Saturday,
September 6 at Seattle's Magnuson Park. The PAWS staff and volunteers
have formed a team and set the ambitious goal of collectively raising
$15,000. Whether you can donate $1 or $1,000 you can help bring us
closer to this goal. Please make your donation today. You can help more animals celebrate their independence!
Northwest leader in protecting animals since 1967, the Progressive
Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) shelters homeless animals, rehabilitates
injured and orphaned wildlife, and empowers people to demonstrate
compassion and respect for animals in their daily lives.
All rights reserved. ©2008 Progressive Animal Welfare Society
PAWS, P.O. Box 1037, Lynnwood, WA 98046