CORVALLIS, Ore. -- Could the recovery of the bald eagle mean the demise of a federally protected Oregon seabird? That’s what scientists at Oregon State University are trying to figure out.
For the past six years, a team of scientists have been studying the impact the American Bald Eagle is having on the federally protected bird called the Common Murre.
The murres nest by the tens of thousands on rocks off the coast. The OSU scientists have documented what happens when the bald eagles swoop in for a meal.
The adult murres get spooked, leaving their young and their eggs behind. The problem comes from what happens next.
“The eggs and the chicks of the seabirds are exposed,”explained Rob Suryan, a seabird expert at the OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center. “The eggs and chicks are then consumed in large quantities by secondary predators such as gulls and ravens.”
Suryan says the predatory birds eat thousands of eggs and young murres a year.
Scientists say on the Northern Oregon coasts, bald eagles have already wiped out entire murre colonies. They believe the bald eagles may be feeding more on the murres because of lack of other food supplies like large salmon runs.
But Suryan says the murres on Oregon’s central coast have already started to adapt by splitting off into smaller colonies and nesting in more protected areas.