Murrey. The Murre who went to Omaha!

by Jennifer Taylor, Wild Care, Inc., Animal Care Coordinator &
Stephanie Ellis, Wild Care, Inc. Executive Director

All I can say is that we never could have done it without our seabird pools! Murrey had such a will to live!  This is what many seabirds do not have after being in captivity.  To keep them eating and preening is the most difficult thing at a rehab facility.  We strive to get these birds in and out within 2 weeks to prevent depression and atrophy of the wing muscles.  Just imagine how terrifying it is for a bird who all its life has only known the open ocean-being put into a box, handled by predators (us), then being fed thawed fish in a bowl?

Really. Two weeks is about all they can take without negative effects.—But, not Murrey!

It all started with Murrey the Common Murre. He was found on Nauset Beach on February 11, 2017, by a lovely woman named Caroline Itzler. She brought the bird to us. It was cold, emaciated and weak, and had a 2-inch long laceration over his left thigh. The wound was very deep and his prognosis was grave. I worked with my staff to stabilize the bird. We cleaned his wound and applied tissue adhesive. We did not have much hope that the bird would be alive in the morning…

Much to our delight, Murrey was alive the next day, and over the weeks became more stable with supportive care. Eventually he was placed in our seabird therapy pools to regain his waterproofing and become conditioned. To prepare him for his next journey back on the sea…

Until it was apparent that he could not go back into the wild, we always treated him as a wild bird. He never got tamed, but he did know that after we handled him, his crate was a “safe place”, and he would check himself out in the mirror then walk over to his bowl and eat his fish.  He definitely got into the routine.

While Murrey’s wound had fully healed, he had a patch of feathers that were not growing in properly. When it was evident that his waterproofing was not going to be 100% in time for spring migration – or perhaps would never be, we needed to assess his condition and make a decision as to what to do with him.  Caroline, his rescuer, even offered to drive him up to Canada!  This was a terrific offer, but even if his feathers did grow in, by that time his muscle condition would not be up to survival in the wild. Our facilities cannot provide a flight cage for seabirds.

So, because of the time and effort our staff and volunteers put into this bird, and his great will to survive despite the odds, we decided to pursue finding a place for him to go.

I first contacted New England Aquarium.  Several years ago we gave them a couple of non-releasable shorebirds to include in their Piping Plover exhibit.  They were not interested in Murrey at this time, but instead, they put him on a list serve to be viewed by like facilities.

Seattle Aquarium was very interested, but they were concerned that the water they use directly from the Puget Sound would be too cold for the bird.  The Georgia Aquarium was also interested… With so much help from Sarah Perry at the Seattle Aquarium we finally got the word from Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium that Murrey would have a permanent new home!

An anonymous donor offered to fly me and Murrey on a private jet directly to Omaha, to avoid the stress of lots of driving and long flights on the bird. When all the official paperwork was in place, off we went.

On Wednesday, August 23rd, Murrey, myself, and our Executive Director Stephanie Ellis, flew to Omaha on a jet. When we arrived, we were greeted warmly by Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium’s Lead Bird Keeper, Paul Rollman. Murrey was placed into a quarantine room, where he has been under observation for just under two weeks. We received word that Murrey was placed in the permanent exhibit with other murres and puffins just yesterday, and is doing very well!

Other big news, DNA tests from the zoo revealed that Murrey is actually a female. Hello Murriel!

We are so very grateful for this opportunity for Murrey. So many people made this happen. I even got shipping tips from the Alaska Sea Life Center, and Monterey Bay Aquarium in California!

Thank you to the wonderful staff of Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium. Thank you to local veterinarians Dr. Louise Morgan, John Kelly, DVM, Eric Stone, DVM, and Priya Patel, DVM.  All assisted Murrey during his stay at Wild Care. Thank you to everyone who played a part in his rehabilitation. And thank you especially to our wonderful donor who enabled his transport to Omaha, stress-free!

If you find an animal in
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Wild Care has a state-of-the-art seabird therapy pool, which allows seabirds and waterfowl to exercise on running water. This will help our bird friends recover more quickly so they can get back to their watery habitats!