On January 7, a murrelet was recovered from the driveway of a house in residential Hood River. It was emaciated, but alive. The bird spent several days in a facility in Hood River being stabilized before attempts to transport it were made to Astoria where personnel have more experience with sea bird recovery. The bird died in spite these efforts.
My initial reaction to the first pictures which were provided last Wednesday was that it was a Long-Billed Murrelet (or maybe a Craveri’s we couldn’t see the back). Subsequent side-on photos showed a bird with white scapulars and an extensive white collar. The white collar is supposed to be a field mark for Marbled Murrelet. A note from Kim Nelson, however, corrected this notion. Apparently, the collar character is quite variable. She said Long-billed Murrelet could not be eliminated, and pointed to the long-looking bill and well defined broken eye-ring as arguments in favor of Long-billed.
I made measurements and took a full photo series this morning. Some of the measurements line up with Long-billed Murrelet, some favor Marbled:
MAMU LBMU Exposed Culmen 18.3mm 13.0-18.3 17.9-23.1 Nares to tip 15.0mm Bill depth 6.0mm 5.6-6.5 5.9-7.1 Wing chord R 123.5mm L 125.5 121-135 134-146 Tarsus R 19.0mm L 18.0 14-19 16-19 Tail 30.5mm 27-35 31-38
I’m waiting for an opinion from folks with more experience than me, but it may come down to a DNA test…
If it turns out this is a Long-billed Murrelet, it will be Oregon’s third record and the first winter record. Long-billed Murrelet records in North America frequently occur in weird places well away from the ocean. That alone is an argument in favor of Long-billed.
If it turns out to be a Marbled Murrelet, its occurrence in Hood River will be unprecedented. Marbled Murrelet records more than 50 or 60 miles away from salt water are extremely rare and inland winter records, even within their normal range, are unusual. Hood River is 110 miles away from Puget Sound and 120 away from the Pacific Ocean. That puts it at least 60 miles away from the nearest known breeding locations. And unlike Long-billed Murrelets, Marbled Murrelets are not known for long-distance wandering.
Grenier, J.J. and S.K. Nelson. 1995. Marbled Murrelet Habitat Associations in Oregon. Ecology and Conservation of the Marbled Murrelet, General Technical Report PSW-GTR-152, USFS.
Howell, S.N.G., I Lewington and W. Russell. 2014. Rare Birds of North America. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ.
Pyle, P. 2008. Identification Guide to North American Birds: part II. Slate Creek Press, Bolinas, CA.
Raphael, M.G., J.A. Younger and B.M. Galleher. 1995. A Landscape-level Analysis of Marbled Murrelet Habitats in Western Washington. Ecology and Conservation of the Marbled Murrelet, General Technical Report PSW-GTR-152, USFS.