WILDLIFE: Record heat kills more than 100 birds at nesting spot near Duwamish River

(Photos courtesy Kersti Muul)

For most of us, this week’s record heat was mostly a matter of discomfort. For some – it was deadly. At least two people lost their lives in King County. And there was a wildlife toll. We’ve learned that on a rooftop near the Duwamish River – the heat killed more than 100 baby birds, Caspian Terns and Gulls. The report comes from West Seattle wildlife advocate Kersti Muul of Salish Wildlife Watch.

Even if you don’t know Caspian Terns on sight, you’ve probably heard them – they have a distinctive guttural call that resounds as they fly over the peninsula to the nesting spot where an overheated roof led to the chicks’ deaths. The spot is atop a vacant building on Port of Seattle property on the eastern shore of the Duwamish River. Kersti explains, “This colony is a fragment of a very large colony that was dispersed from Destruction Island [off the Olympic Peninsula coast]. They took up residence here because the cement factory puts out dust that they look at as ‘sand’ and it’s by a river, etc.” But the roof got so hot, they either overheated or else died trying to fly/jump off it.

Kersti’s been involved in rescue efforts for three days now. She says some have been saved and taken to PAWS – the regional wildlife rehab center – but some had to be euthanized, and some died on the way. “It is a very sad scene.” She is raising money for PAWS to handle this and other rescues – you can donate here or via PAWS’ website.

26 Replies to "WILDLIFE: Record heat kills more than 100 birds at nesting spot near Duwamish River"

  • Jort June 30, 2021 (4:53 pm)

    In the city of Seattle, there is one and only one major contributor to carbon emissions: our cars. It is far-and-away this city’s leading contribution to climate change. Those emissions are warming our planet, causing heat-related deaths like these. Those cars are also polluting our waterways with rubber, killing salmon and the orcas that depend on them. This is a city where people put incredible amounts of time and passion into sorting out recycling tidbits but happily drive their $75,000 planet-destroying cars to the store to buy more and more stupid crap. To save this planet, we will have to undergo fundamental changes to our lives, and those changes will involve transportation policy in this country. Or, you know, start getting used to the pictures of dead baby birds and giving your grandchildren a dead, barren world to inherit. But, in fairness, I fully understand how important it is to people’s psyches to not acknowledge that I am right about this stuff. I await an insightful comment about how “contractors can’t carry their tools on a bike.” Yeah. OK.

    • Mike June 30, 2021 (10:48 pm)

      I was going to ride my bicycle to and from my colonoscopy in Issaquah today, but they made me have somebody to drive me back and I had to work until an hour before the appointment. Darn healthcare system making me use a vehicle!!!

      • Jort July 1, 2021 (12:40 pm)

        Good point, Mike. As you know, 98% of all drivers on the road are headed to doctors in far-off suburban areas to have colonoscopies done. That’s why biking and buses will never work. Again: pointing out odd exceptions does not bolster a cars-first argument. Countries and cities all around the world have citizens who ALSO get colonoscopies. And they manage to do it without making cars their number one transportation priority. 

    • anonyme July 1, 2021 (8:18 am)

      All true.  These tragic bird deaths are but a harbinger of things to come, and weather ‘events’ such as this one will become more common.   And it won’t be just birds that will succumb; it will be (and is) babies of every species, including our own, elders, others.  Crops have been burnt to a crisp, although plants of many species have been in decline for some time.   Still, humans just carry on as usual, as if none of this has anything to do with them.  Jort is right, fossil-fuel burning vehicles are mostly to blame.  I’ve never understood the mentality of leaving your oil-heated home and getting in your giant SUV to go buy coffee in a disposable cup from Starbucks.  I also urge everyone to watch a doc on Netflix called “Kiss the Ground” about regenerative agriculture.  Think about these poor baby birds as being just the tip of the melting iceberg…

    • Ron Swanson July 1, 2021 (10:15 am)

      Or, just buy an electric car.  This “society is doomed unless everything changes” line convinces no one.  People can maintain their existing lifestyle, and just cut the carbon emissions.  That’s a lot easier of a sell than “start riding a bike and eat vegan”

    • alki_2008 July 2, 2021 (6:27 pm)

      I switched 90% of my transportation to a 90mpg moped/scooter, but that became an untenable option when my transportation method was restricted from using the low bridge. I was almost run off the road 3 times by cars travelling at least 10+ mph faster than me when trying to take Delridge and Marginal Way routes. So now, my transportation is 90% full-size car.

      Why not bus?  I’d have to take 3 different buses to get to my destination and family responsibilities do not allow for me to spend that much extra time commuting.

      • Gull July 4, 2021 (7:54 am)

        How about an ebike? Then you could take the low bridge trail.

  • MARIANNE June 30, 2021 (5:51 pm)

    While I was busy trying to keep myself and my cats cool, I also put out bowls of water for wildlife around my home.  I didn’t even think about a situation such as this.  I am so sad for these poor baby birds and their parents, helpless to do anything.  Thank you PAWS and Kersti.

    • Kersti Muul June 30, 2021 (6:43 pm)

      Thank you! 💜 Putting water out during these deadly hot days is probably the most important thing we can do.I have so many dishes out but one has to be constantly cleaned because Reggie the crow is constantly soiling it haha 

      • AmyLynn July 1, 2021 (12:30 am)


  • Trileigh June 30, 2021 (6:15 pm)

    Kersti’s a true West Seattle hero!

    • Kersti Muul June 30, 2021 (6:30 pm)

      ❤️ I did what I could. It’s so harrowing down there.There were a few woman who had helped so any before we even got there…I saved many out of east marginal mainly…

  • WSOwl June 30, 2021 (6:16 pm)

    Heartbreaking. Thank you for taking care.

  • DH June 30, 2021 (6:23 pm)

    Aww. This is heartbreaking. It makes me so sad for those that didn’t make it. Thanks for all you do Kersti! I use to have such joy watching the baby seagulls on the downtown building next to ours with a nest. They usually hatch around the 4th of July. I hope they make it! 

  • Joan June 30, 2021 (7:03 pm)

    Yea, Kersti! Wish I had known and could help out. Let me know!

  • Sunflower June 30, 2021 (7:17 pm)

    Saw this on the news earlier, heartbreaking :(

    Thank you Kersti for being there for these birds and helping, and saving some of them.

    I am interested in wildlife rescue work and looking for opportunities, but PAWS is kind of far for me. Do you know of any more local volunteer opportunities?

    • Kersti Muul June 30, 2021 (10:11 pm)

      Try SR3. We have 8 seal pups.I would apply there to volunteer!

      • Sunflower July 1, 2021 (8:27 am)

        👍 Thanks Kersti! :)

  • Kathy June 30, 2021 (9:29 pm)

    Tibby the Welsummer chicken also died Monday morning. She was a senior citizen and had been moving very slowly  for a couple of weeks before the extreme heat hit. At least she got to dine on her favorite foods, watermelon rinds and raspberries, before she died. I have a full unopened bag of layena pellets here in n Alki if anyone could use it for their chickens..  R.I.P. Tibby. No more backyard chickens for us.

    • WSB June 30, 2021 (9:38 pm)

      Sorry to hear that.

    • Kersti Muul July 2, 2021 (10:59 pm)

      I’m sorry 😞Thank you for giving Tibby a good life.🕊️❤️

  • Rick July 1, 2021 (9:24 am)

    I’ve always thought you were pretty cool but a Broncos hat?

    • Kersti Muul July 3, 2021 (8:16 am)

      Love me some Peyton

  • Sharon Arnowitz July 1, 2021 (3:43 pm)

    Yes, thank you for your compassion, Kirsti. We should have listened to Greenpeace back in the 60’s & 70’s.

    • Kersti Muul July 4, 2021 (8:45 am)

      Yes we humans don’t learn very well.It’s not too late though…

  • Nita July 12, 2021 (11:38 am)

    I am not here to argue the problem of vehicle emissions in our environment. But, I think what is being missed here as the problem was caused by a cement factory emitting dust that looks like sand to the birds. It seems like in order to prevent this from reoccurring something needs to be done about the cement emissions, which are toxic. Hopefully the birds will go to another place next year but otherwise this could very well repeat itself. Also, maybe something should be done about that vacant building or the roof.Thank you PAWS for coming to the rescue.

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