A three-week-old marbled murrelet that was hatched and raised at SFU's Burnaby Mountain campus is scheduled to be released this weekend.
The chick, which goes by the name of Theo, will be released at Desolation Sound, north of Powell River, as soon as it's ready to fly.
British Columbia is the only province in Canada where the threatened bird nests. It only nests in old-growth forests. As the trees disappear due to logging, so does the nesting habitat.
Fred Cooke, who holds the Canadian Wildlife Service chair in wildlife ecology and is one of Canada's leading ornithologists, specializes in the study of bird populations. He has been studying marbled murrelets since 1994. Each year he and his team of researchers catch and band about 200 of the birds to determine how many survive from one year to the next. "We catch some of them many times so we can get an estimate of survival," he says.
The biologists also examine the murrelets' nesting habits. "We put small radio transmitters, about one-per-cent of the birds' weight, on their backs and use it to find out where they go to nest," says Cooke. "We have to find out where they nest so we can set priorities for habitat protection."
It was during this research that he came across an abandoned egg. "Rather than leave it we brought it to an incubator at Simon Fraser and Dov Lank, who was incubating other birds, looked after the bird and after 28 days it hatched. We've been catching fish at Theodosia Inlet, where we do our work, and shipping them here. It eats about 50 grams of sand lance fish a day," says Cooke.
The day before the marbled murrelet fledges (takes flight) it plucks out all its down, leaving black and white feathers. It does it in the evening and that same evening it flies from its nest to the coast.
"Once they've reached fledging success they must have a pretty
good survival rate. We've been following some young birds in previous years and
Contact: Fred Cooke
Simon Fraser University