Staff at the Bird Treatment and Learning Center in Anchorage have their hands full with an influx of common murres. The facility has taken in 20 of the seabirds in the past month; normally it only sees one to two birds a year.
“The birds are coming in emaciated, not injured. They’re just hungry,” explained operations director Guy Runco.
Caring for the birds is a full-time job. That’s why volunteers, like Terri Johnson, turned out to help.
“We tube-feed 16 murres five times a day from eight in the morning to eight at night,” Johnson said.
The birds get a “salmon slurry,” which is made with salmon, hooligan and herring. It’s slowly boosting their weight. The birds have to be tube fed because the center isn’t big enough to have a tank for the birds to dive for fish like they would in the wild.
“They dive about 100 feet for fish, so if they can’t find those fish within a hundred feet it’s going to be hard for them to find food to survive,” Runco said. “We think that’s what’s causing this, is the inability to find the fish.”
Bird TLC and the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward are the only two facilities taking in the murres. Staff will nurse them back to health until the birds can be released.