Yesterday, the Alaska Sealife Center staff released two SMEWS into the main bird habitat. They shot out of the small animal crate and briefly flew around before landing in the water. This novelty created quite a buzz for the resident birds. The COMMON MURRES and PIGEON GUILLEMOTS seemed most upset with the intruders and chased them around. Hopefully, the young male and older female will be accepted into the flock soon and peace will return.
The Smews were obtained from a breeder, not from the wild. This Eurasian species is a rare visitor to Alaska in the Aleutians and Pribilofs. Like the Red-legged Kittiwakes on display, this is a wonderful opportunity for birders to observe them through the seasons. Both are now gray birds with chestnut foreheads and crowns. Soon the male will mature into the classic stunning “cracked ice” white and black plumage. The ASLC offers free admission to Alaskans on Wednesdays from November through February, open 10-5 daily, closed on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas.
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Submitted by Carol Griswold