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Tiny Velella Velella and Intriguing Birds Latest Oregon Coast Finds

Published 10/22/2019 at 7:33 PM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Tiny Velella Velella and Intriguing Birds Latest Oregon Coast Finds

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(Seaside, Oregon) – Oregon coast storms over the last week created a bundle of beach surprises. A variety of injured birds needed help, and those potentially-stinky velella velella showed up as well. (Photos courtesy Seaside Aquarium).

Luckily, rains and heavier surf probably washed the majority of the purple creatures away. But some may still be there, and what you’ll find is a bit unique, according to Seaside Aquarium’s Tiffany Boothe.

Velella velella are also known as by-the-way-sailors and purple sails. Those washing up now are extremely small in size, indicating they’re juveniles.

“The largest ones are averaging the size of a nickle and the smallest only the size of a grain of sand,” Boothe said.

She added purple sails have a clear “sail” that catches the wind and pushes them across the ocean’s surface. They have no way of steering themselves. If the winds are blowing from the west, they get blown onshore. Once on the beach, they dry out fairly quickly and lose their blue color in favor of a translucence.

Storms also created a surge of injured creatures on the beach.

“We have also had quite a few sea birds coming through the aquarium in need of help,” Boothe said. “People can bring injured birds to the aquarium. We serve as a drop off center for the Wildlife Center of the North Coast. If people bring us birds we can make sure they get to the Center. If people find sea birds in need of help and can not recover them they can call the Center at 503-338-0331.”

Among the recent rescues was a rhinoceros auklet. Boothe said the bird is an underappreciated cousin of the colorful tufted puffin, but it’s a regular on the Oregon coast.

“The rhinoceros auklet returns to Haystack Rock every year to nest and raise their young,” Boothe said. “While the more popular puffin can be seen strutting outside its den in the early morning hours and flying to and fro throughout the day in search for fish, the rhinoceros auklet is tucked safely back inside its den.”

An interesting fact: you may never see the bird at Haystack Rock, but it is indeed there – every year from April to August.

Boothe said the birds spend a grueling winter out at sea, and then the “couples” meet at night at the entrance of their burrows. From there, it’s an elaborate courtship of rubbing beaks as the two get reacquainted. Inside their little dens, the female will lay a single white brown or gray spotted egg.

“For the next 39-52 days, both parents will take turns incubating the egg, only leaving at night to feed on small baitfish,” Boothe said. “Once the chick emerges from the egg the parents will continue to band together taking turns bringing food back for their new chick.”

The chick must grow and learn quickly as in only seven to eight weeks it will have to head out to sea for its first winter. Winters are hard, especially for young auklets, and many of them do not make it through the first storms.

Boothe said those found on the beach are often taken to the Wildlife Center of the North Coast for rehabilitation and eventual release.

"Rehab and release can be expensive and time consuming, but at sea, bird populations continue to decline. A larger effort is and should be made to protect these fragile creatures," she said. Oregon Coast Hotels for this event - Where to eat - Map - Virtual Tour







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