The Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Minnesota (WRCM) recently took in a rare patient: an ancient murrelet, a small coastal diving bird that lives along the Pacific, from Alaska to California, and in parts of Asia.
The murrelet was found Nov. 18 on a road in Hastings, emaciated, dehydrated and too weak to fly. Despite efforts to care for the bird, it died.
The bird is only the ninth or 10th ancient murrelet seen in Minnesota since the early 1900s, The WRCM said, citing Minnesota Ornithologist's Union records. In a Facebook post, the WRCM said the bird is so rare here it's considered "accidental" when found.
It's not clear what brought the bird so far out of range, but it isn't the only wayward murrelet to turn up in the Midwest lately. They've been spotted in Ashland, Wis., Michigan and other nearby states.
"There's a buckshot pattern of them in the Upper Midwest this year, and that is unusual — to see them in all these different states at the same time," said Tami Vogel, WRCM executive director. Still, it's tough to draw conclusions about why the birds are so far from the West Coast with one year of data.
Vogel she consulted with the Ornithologists' Union and learned that murrelets can't adapt to conditions in the Upper Midwest because they don't necessarily recognize Minnesota fish as food.
The ancient murrelet gets its name from its gray back markings, a "fancied resemblance to a shawl draped across an old person's shoulders," according to the National Audubon Society. It is the only bird known to cross the entirety of the Pacific Ocean during migration, the WRCM said in its post.