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Mossy Murres

Joseph Grinnell
Publication Information
Journal: 
Condor
Volume: 
5
Issue: 
1 (January-February)
Section: 
From Field and Study
Year: 
1903
Pages: 
20

Mossy Murres

During the summer one often finds on Monterey Bay solitary murres (Uria californica) which have not been able to join the hordes of their kind at the regular breeding grounds on the Farallone Islands or elsewhere. Specimens obtained often proved to be remarkably emaciated and so weak as to be unable to fly. Perhaps a failure to properly preen themselves accounts for a greenish or brownish-green accretion which forms a zone across the breast and along the sides of the body, just at and a little below the water-line. One bird in particular which washed ashore near the Hopkins Laboratory last year had a broad oil green band across the breast. Microscopic examination showed the feathers of this region to be closely covered by attached masses of diatoms. I sent some of these feathers to Dr. George C. Whipple of New York, who identified the prevailing species of diatom as Fragilaria pacifica Grum., with some Mexican circulaare. both of which are figured in Wolles’ “Diatomacez of North America.” The same or similar plants may be found on any floating body such as driftwood or on piling. The birds with this conspicuous discoloration across the white under surface are sometimes unable to leave the water, the feathers having soaked through, and the whole bird become almost water-logged. These individuals may have become decrepit from old age, or accidentally disabled in some way.

JOSEPH GRINNELL

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