Rare bird hatches off Maine coast

By Kevin Miller, BDN Staff
Posted Sept. 15, 2009, at 8:44 p.m.

A remote Maine island already known for its puffins and other seabirds is the site of what biologists say is the nation’s first fledgling of a type of bird rarely found on this side of the Atlantic.

The Manx shearwater chick was discovered last week in one of six nesting burrows on Matinicus Rock.

A smaller relative of the albatross, Manx shearwaters typically are found in Great Britain and elsewhere on the eastern side of the North Atlantic. The birds were discovered on Matinicus Rock 12 years ago, but the chick found last week is the first documented fledgling of a Manx shearwater in the United States, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Matinicus Rock is a small rocky island located about 25 miles from Rockland and several miles from larger Matinicus Island. Matinicus Rock, which is home to a historic lighthouse, is owned by the USFWS and is part of the Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge.

A shearwater egg was found on the island in 2005, but it did not hatch. Adults were documented visiting one of the burrows last year; however, it was never confirmed that the birds had bred.

Biologists with the USFWS and the National Audubon Society, which cooperatively manage the island, had to wait to check the nests until after any chicks were older. A chick is considered a fledgling when it is able to leave the nest on its own.

The biologists described the young shearwater as healthy with “perfect plumage.”

“This is what we all work and hope for,” Stephen Kress, director of Audubon’s Seabird Restoration Program, said in a statement. “This successful nesting provides further evidence of the health of the Gulf of Maine and demonstrates how Audubon’s and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s long-term collaborative efforts are helping seabirds to thrive.”

Earlier this year, Matinicus Rock was also the site of the first documented nesting of common murres in the Eastern U.S. in more than a century, according to the USFWS.

http://bangordailynews.com/2009/09/15/news/rare-bird-hatches-off-maine-coast/ printed on September 20, 2014