lizbrownlee – poet

Poems, animal info, extraordinary women, my books!

X is for Xantu’s Murrelet

This image from Wiki shows the size of a Xantu’s murrelet (recently renamed Scripp’s murrelet) when it leaves the nest and plunges into the ocean at fewer than 48 hours old, having not been fed, and without being able to fly. It is about 5 inches long:

Scripps's_murrelet_chick,_Santa_Barbara_Island

Uniquely, from this moment forward this little chick spends it’s entire time at sea, with its parents in attendance for a few months, until it is an adult and returns to the cliffs where it hatched to breed itself.

Luckily it is hatched fully fluffy-feathered and half the size of the parents – the huge eggs the mother murrelet lays (in the cliff rock crevices on islands in the Channel Islands of California, and on Santa Barbara Island, and also several islands off Baja California) have one of the largest egg to bird ratios in the world.

I haven’t been able to find any information as to how the parents keep the chicks together on the open sea, but when the parent birds leave the nest, the babies follow them. The parents fly out to the sea, leaving the chicks to fall and scramble down the cliffs into the water. At this point the parents call to them and the babies swim out to join them – murrelets have a piercing whistle, probably to be heard through the surf, and I surmise that this call would help reunite them if they become separated.

They feed by diving underwater to get larval fish and crustaceans, and rely heavily on shoals of anchovy. They are usually seen feeding in pairs, and if one bird is on the nest then unrelated birds will team up.

While they are briefly in the nest, and as eggs, the chicks are vulnerable to feral cats, house mice, deer mice, and black rats.

Out at sea they become prey to marine animals, oil spills, getting entangled in fishing nets, and pollution.

Xantu’s or Scripp’s murrelet is classified as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Here is a great photo of a pair in the water, by Tony Morris:

Tony Morris Scripp's Murrelet

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Here is my poem:

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Murrelets

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Murrelet’s chicks

jump into the surf

just two days after

their egg-hatched birth,

.

follow their parents’

loud cries to be free,

riding the swell

on the rising, green sea.

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How do their parents

guide them and guard,

when their world becomes

just water and dark?

.

What do they do

in wind rush and storm,

tossed and plunged

when waves grow strong?

.

But the ocean is where

they make their home,

wind in feather, air in bone,

part ocean, part foam.

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© Liz Brownlee

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If you would like to blog hop to another A-Z Challenge, please click on the logo in the right-hand column!

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Information from:

Arkive.

Wikipedia.

Channel Islands (USA!) National Park Service.

Prose and Poem © Liz Brownlee, all rights reserved not to be used in any manner whatsoever without the permission of the author.

 

 

27 Comments

  1. Such a cute board. Thank you for introducing me to it. Loved your nature poem.

    Like

  2. This bird I have never about so it was so interesting to read about it here. I was surprised that mice feed on these little chicks. I love your poem because it shows how little we know of them and like they are from a fairy tale.

    Like

    • Yes – they really are thrown to the winds, aren’t they!

      Like

  3. greyzoned/angelsbark

    Wow, what a cute little bird! I love birds. Sounds like these Xantu’s Murrelets have a rough start to life, falling down the cliffs and all. Poor things. And then they have to fight so hard for life: they really have much going against them, don’t they?
    They’re precious little beings. Thanks for educating me today (and all the other days. I’ve really been enjoying your A-Z series).

    Michele at Angels Bark

    Like

    • Thank you, Michele, that’s really kind. I think their story is amazing.

      Like

  4. greyzoned/angelsbark

    PS: Loved your poem too!! You have a real talent for poetry…

    Like

    • Ah, well, I am a professional poet… in books and all, so I certainly hope they would be of a standard!

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  5. that oh-so adorable murrelet deserves you oh-so cute poem, Liz. 😉

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  6. How fascinating, Liz. I haven’t heard of these birds – what an incredible introduction for those chicks – you wouldn’t think they’d have a hope in hell of surviving. Your poem is beautiful too.

    Susan A Eames from
    Travel, Fiction and Photos

    Like

    • Thank you! I hadn’t either, which is surprising considering they live off of North America and are unique. Not many photos of them, either. They are quite endangered really by changes in ocean currents not bringing them food, I really think they will probably become extinct.

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  7. Thinking about those birds laying such large eggs makes one cringe!

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  8. Wow… I did not even know of this bird. Lovely site you have here.

    My Recent Entries for the #AtoZChallenge –
    TV Shows: The X-Files
    TV Shows: The Wonder Years

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  9. Part ocean, part foam!! Great poem & post!! 😉

    Like

  10. What a harsh start to life – but I guess they don’t see it that way! So cute! I’d never heard of them before.

    Like

  11. Talk about leaving the nest…
    Melanie Schulz from
    Melanie Schulz.com

    Like

  12. Love your poetry! What a cute little bird, too. Hope you’re enjoying the A to Z Challenge. It’s almost over … http://www.dianeweidenbenner.com

    Like

  13. Adorable! I love all this auk family – it’s related to the puffin, of course. ❤
    Jemima Pett

    Like

    • Yep, he certainly is. love puffins, too. I always remember Enid Blyton when talking about Auks – in one of her books the bird mad boy, Philip? I think his name was, was determined to find an extinct one on islands they were visiting!

      Liked by 1 person

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