TYPE OF BIRD: Cassin’s auklet (Ptychoramphus aleuticus).
WHEN RESCUED: Aug. 4.
WHAT HAPPENED: A Cassin’s auklet arrived in Juneau on a cruise ship. Cassin’s auklets are semi-nocturnal, flying to and from their burrows at night during the breeding season. Elliot was a juvenile bird, so he wasn’t returning to a nest to care for young, but may have been flying at night when he collided with a cruise ship (sea birds are sometimes attracted to the lights of ships at sea). When the ship arrived in Juneau, he was dropped off with a local resident working on the docks and the Juneau Raptor Center was called to pick him up.
INJURIES: He was subdued when he came under care, probably stressed out, dehydrated and hungry.
CARE: After a few hours of rest, he began heartily eating hand-fed pieces of smelt and immediately became more active and energetic. An exam revealed no problems and a dip in water showed his feathers were still sufficiently waterproofed.
RELEASE: He was kept overnight on netting (which distributed his weight equally over his body — an important step in rehabilitating sea birds) and the next day arrangements were made to fly him as quickly as possible closer to the outer coast. Cassin’s auklets live year-round close to the open ocean, nesting on islands that lack land predators, and are not found near Juneau. Alaska Seaplanes agreed to fly Elliot to Pelican, an area much closer than Juneau to auklet territory, and release him.
MORE ABOUT THE CASSIN’S AUKLET: In keeping with their secretive character, both males and females have mostly dull, grey-brown feathers all year round; the belly is white. The only decorations on this nondescript plumage are small, white crescents above and below the eye, which are too small to be seen at any distance. The featherless parts of the bird are more colorful. The feet are bright blue, and there is a pale pink patch on the lower half of the bill. The eyes, which are brown in the young, become a striking metallic grey in the adult.
• Message phone for the Juneau Raptor Center, 586-8393; emergency pager, 790-5424; or for more information about the JRC, go online to juneauraptorcenter.org.