The winter storm that arrived just in time for the holidays, also brought with it the arrival of a lone avian species not usually found in the Rocky Mountains. Local Kelly, Wyoming resident and Teton Raptor Center (TRC) volunteer, Jackie Potter was surprised to find an unusual looking bird in her driveway on December 27, 2021.
The bird that Potter spotted turned out to be an Ancient Murrelet, a pelagic bird that typically spends the majority of its time in the Pacific Ocean and nests onshore in cavities on the ground or in walls or rocky areas.
Potter took the lost bird to TRC where it was admitted, rehydrated, fed, and cared for by staff and volunteers. After examining the bird, it revealed no injuries or illnesses, and staff collaborated with rehabilitation centers on the West coast to determine the best region to ship the bird via aircraft.
Sheena Patel, Teton Raptor Center Clinic Coordinator said, “It’s extremely uncommon to find a seabird in the Mountain West in the middle of winter, since most pelagic birds don’t have the capability to stand upright. The only way for them to become airborne is when they have access to a large body of water to act as a runway, using it to gain a running start before taking off into the air.”
After the Ancient Murrelet spent a few days in TRC’s rehabilitation clinic, the bird traveled on a commercial flight from Idaho Falls, ID to Portland, OR where it was then picked up by a volunteer and transferred to the Wildlife Center of the North Coast in Astoria, OR. Unfortunately the bird arrived weak and tired after travel and died before it was able to be released. We are grateful for the collaboration efforts from all involved in this case and for the knowledge gained by the TRC team in caring for this seabird.
“This is the second account of an Ancient Murrelet found in the area – the last one dating back 20 years ago, it also was most likely also blown off course in a winter storm before being returned to its original location via airplane.” stated Patel.
Learn more about Ancient Murrelets at All About Birds.