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BC Conservation Data Centre: Conservation Status Report

Uria aalge
Common Murre

Scientific Name: Uria aalge
English Name: Common Murre
Provincial Status Summary
Status: S2B,S3S4N
Date Status Assigned: April 24, 2015
Date Last Reviewed: March 05, 2015
Reasons: One colony accounts for 95% of the total British Columbian population, making this species very vulnerable to catastrophic events.Widespread along the coast as a nonbreeding bird. 
Range Extent: D = 1,000-5,000 square km
Range Extent Comments: Breeds locally from Barkley Sound on southwestern Vancouver Island to the Kerouard Islands on the southern tip of the Queen Charlotte Islands (Campbell et al. 1990). Widespread along the coast as a nonbreeding bird.
Occurrences & Population
Number of Occurrences: A = 1 - 5
Comments: Breeding is restricted to four locations (Sartine Island, Triangle Island, and the Kerouard Islands). The Triangle Island colony accounts for 95% of the breeding population in British Columbia and is made up of three areas. Formerly bred at seven sites (historical sites are mapped as element occurrences). .
Number of Occurrences with Good Viability / Ecological Integrity: Rank Factor not assessed
Number of Occurrences Appropriately Protected & Managed: BC = 1 - 12
Comments: Several breeding sites are within protected areas, including the major colony at Triangle Island (Anne Vall?e Ecological Reserve and Scott Islands Provincial Park), and smaller colonies in the Sartine Island Ecological Reserve and Gwaii Haanas National Park.
Population Size: E = 2,500 - 10,000 individuals
Comments: The results of surveys in 2003 and 2004 was a total population of just over 4700 (Hipfner 2005) in two locations. Breeding population estimated at 4320 pairs (Rodway 1991). Wintering population is much higher.
Threats (to population, occurrences, or area affected)
Degree of Threat: Rank Factor not assessed
Comments: The species is considered very threatened in British Columbia. All populations are very vulnerable to oil spills (Rodway et al. 1989; Burger and Fry 1993), but the breeding population, because it is concentrated at only a few sites, could potentially be impacted by catastrophic events. Drowning in inshore gill-nets can have significant impacts on local populations (Carter and Sealy 1984; DeGange et al. 1993). Common Murres seem particularly vulnerable, and accounted for 75% of all birds entangled in a sockeye gill net fishery in north Puget Sound, Washington (Pierce et al. 1997). Nesting colonies are secure but sensitive to human disturbance during the breeding period.
Bald Eagles numbers and nests have increased, potentially having caused the abandonment of a number of subcolonies, particularly around Triangle Island (Hipfner 2005).
Trend (in population, range, area occupied, and/or condition of occurrences)
Short-Term Trend: F = Decline of 10-30%
Comments: Data are lacking to determine overall population trend, but several very small colonies have disappeared.
From Louise Blight:
Known to have bred at six sites in British Columbia in the 1960s & 1970s. Surveys of these sites in 2003-04 showed common murre breeding at only two of those sites (Triangle I, Kerouard Is), with >90% of the nesting population occurring at one site (Triangle I). Three of the colonies unoccupied in 2003-04 were historically very small (<10 pairs) but one (Sartine I) was occupied by a high count of 600 birds in 1975 (and a low of 236 birds in 1968, though timing of count is important for murre surveys as attendance may vary dramatically within days, seasons and years. Timing is not provided for the 1968 or 1975 data). Two pairs of common murres also likely nested at one of their historical localities (Cleland I) in 2006 (Carter et al. 2006). At Triangle Island, BC's largest colony, the nesting population was ~27% lower in 2003 (4327 birds) than in 1989 (5937 birds at the count best matched to the phenology of the 2003 count; 1989 range, 5846 6144 birds). At the Kerouard Is colony numbers appear stable, with 377 birds counted in 2004 and a peak count of 400 in 1987 (low count of 70 birds in 1977; timing of count not provided for 1977 datum). Source for all above: Hipfner 2005, Campbell et al. 1990a. [Note that some counts are of birds and others are of nests.] Survey data are inadequate to calculate at-sea trends (Kenyon et al. 2009). In Washington, [awaiting pers. comm. from Peter Hodum; will forward data when/if I hear from him]. Worldwide, the population is extremely large and appears to be increasing (IUCN category Least Concern; BirdLife International 2011a). Overall, the species has declined at Triangle I, its main BC nesting colony, at a rate of 2.2% per annum between 1989 and 2003 (Gaston et al. 2009).
Long-Term Trend: Rank Factor not assessed
Other Factors
Intrinsic Vulnerability: Rank Factor not assessed
Environmental Specificity: Rank Factor not assessed
Other Rank Considerations:
Information Gaps
Research Needs:
Inventory Needs: Continue standardized monitoring of nesting colonies (Resources Inventory Committee 1997 #13) to determine size and distribution of breeding population. Continue surveys of beached birds. Important marine habitats, particularly areas of concentration outside the breeding season, should also be identified and mapped.
Management: Marine oil spill response plans should be evaluated and amended as necessary to address the needs of Common Murre populations. Gill-net fisheries should be regulated and managed to reduce the threat of by-catch. Develop guidelines for access to seabird colonies, including appropriate minimum altitudes and aircraft restrictions that could be registered with the federal Ministry of Transport. The significance of mortality associated with gill-net fisheries should be evaluated and techniques for mitigating impacts should be developed. Further information is required on the basic ecology of wintering birds (Byrd et al. 1993).
Author: Ramsay, L.R. and B. Niedzielski and S. Cannings
Date: April 24, 2015
Burger, A.E., and D.M. Fry. 1993. Effects of oil pollution on seabirds in the northeast Pacific. Pages 254-263 in K. Vermeer, K. Briggs, K. Morgan, and D. Seigel-Causey, eds. The status, ecology, and conservation of marine birds in the North Pacific. Can. Wildl. Serv. Spec. Publ., Ottawa.
Byrd, G.V., E.C. Murphy, G.W. Kaiser, A.Y. Kondratyev, and Y.V. Shibaev. 1993. Status and ecology of offshore fish-feeding alcids (murres and puffins) in the North Pacific. Pages 176-186 in K. Vermeer, K. Briggs, K. Morgan and D. Seigel-Causey, eds. The status, ecology, and conservation of marine birds in the North Pacific. Can. Wildl. Serv. Spec. Publ., Ottawa, ON.
Campbell, R.W., N.K. Dawe, I. McTaggart-Cowan, J.M. Cooper, G.W. Kaiser, and M.C.E. McNall. 1990b. The Birds of British Columbia Vol. 2: Nonpasserines: Diurnal Birds of Prey through Woodpeckers. Royal British Columbia Museum, Victoria, BC.
Cannings, R.J. 1998. The Birds of British Columbia - a taxonomic catalogue. B.C. Minist. Environ., Lands and Parks, Wildl. Branch, Victoria, Wildl. Bull. B-86. 266pp.
Carter, H.R., and S.G. Sealy. 1984. Marbled Murrelet mortality due to gill-net fishing in Barkley Sound, British Columbia. Pp. 212-220 in D.N. Nettleship, G.A. Sanger, and P.F. Springer. eds. Marine birds: their feeding ecology and commercial fisheries relationships. Proc. of the Pac. Seabird Group Symp., Seattle, WA., January 6-8, 1982. Can. Wildl. Serv. Spec. Publ., Ottawa.
DeGange, A., et al. 1993. Losses of seabirds in gill nets in the North Pacific. Pages 204-211 in K. Vermeer, K. Briggs, K. Morgan, and K. Seigel-Causey, eds. The status, ecology and conservation of marine birds in the North Pacific. Can. Wildl. Serv. Spec. Publ., Ottawa.
Godfrey, W.E. 1986. The Birds of Canada, rev. ed. Natl. Mus. Can., Ottawa, ON. 595pp.
Resource Inventory Committee. 1997f. DRAFT. Standardized Inventory Methodologies for Components of British Columbia's Biodiversity: Sea Birds, version 1.1 (draft). Prepared for Resour. Inventory Comm., B.C. Minist. Environ., Lands and Parks, Victoria, BC.
Rodway, M.S. 1991. Status and conservation of breeding seabirds in British Columbia. Pages 43-102 in J.P. Croxall, ed. Seabird status and conservation: a supplement. Int. Counc. for Bird Preservation Tech. Publ. No. 11. Cambridge. U.K.
Rodway, M.S., M.J.F. Lemon, and K.R. Summers. 1992. Seabird breeding populations in the Scott Islands on the west coast of Vancouver Island, 1982-89. in K. Vermeer, R.W. Butler, and K.H. Morgan, eds. The Ecology, Status and Conservation of Marine and Shoreline Birds on the West Coast of Vancouver Island. Occ. Pap. No. 75. Can. Wildl. Serv., Delta, BC.
Rodway, M.S., M.J.F. Lemon, J.P.L. Savard, and R. McKelvey. 1989. Nestucca oil spill: Impact assessment on avian population and habitat. Tech. Rep. Ser. No. 66, Can. Wildl. Serv., Delta, BC. 48pp.
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. 1997. Seabird interactions with non-treaty sockeye gillnet fisheries in 1994. Wash. Dept. Fish and Wildl., Wildl. Res. Div. Olympia, WA. Online. Available:

Please visit the website Conservation Status Ranks for information on how the CDC determines conservation status ranks. For global conservation status reports and ranks, please visit the NatureServe website

Suggested Citation:

B.C. Conservation Data Centre. 2015. Conservation Status Report: Uria aalge. B.C. Minist. of Environment. Available: (accessed Feb 6, 2023).