Rescue center overwhelmed with starving seabirds

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dead-seabirdsAcross Northern California, on beaches from Monterey to Point Reyes, malnourished seabirds have been appearing in alarming numbers, some shrunken to little more than feather and bone.

The sea-loving common murres, whose black or brown wing feathers and white bellies get them mistaken for penguins, are rarely seen alighting on beaches when healthy. Many of the thin-billed species are being brought into the International Bird Rescue Center in Fairfield, which says it is taking in the birds at the highest rates in 18 years.

The murres’ presence is significant to scientists because they’re considered a marker species, whose movements and numbers signal changes in the ocean’s food supply.

Six freshwater tanks at the bird rescue center are being used to nurse 140 common murres back to health. Typically the center only uses one or two tanks this time of year for stressed seabirds. Within the last month, more than 250 common murres have been brought into the center, which usually sees around 10 birds each month in late summer and early fall, said spokesman Russ Curtis.

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