Robert Bateman (Originals)
Murrelets (Original Art)
9 x 12 / 22.86cm x 30.48cm
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One of the littlest seabirds in the world, the marbled murrelet is not much bigger than a stubby starling. Like the puffins, the murres and the auks, the marbled murrelet is a member of the Alcid family, most of which nest in inaccessible cliffs for protection. There, overhanging the water, Alcid young are fledged and, when ready, simply drop into the sea. The habits of the marbled murrelet, however, are completely different from the majority of its family.
It is almost impossible to believe that the nest of the marbled murrelet was not known to science until just a few years ago, when a giant west coast forest tree was cut. As the tree hit the ground, a little bird with webbed feet flopped out. Its nest had been in a tiny blob of moss about 100 feet up the tree. The tree itself was located considerably inland. The mystery of the marbled murrelet was compounded by the fact that these birds fly to and from their nests only under the cover of darkness. No wonder that this tiny seabird's nest was so long unknown. The marbled murrelet is so absolutely dependent upon old-growth forests that it has joined the spotted owl as a flagship for environmentalists trying to protect these forests.