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BC Conservation Data Centre: Species Summary


Brachyramphus marmoratus
Marbled Murrelet


 
Scientific Name: Brachyramphus marmoratus (Gmelin, 1789)
English Name: Marbled Murrelet
 
Classification / Taxonomy
Scientific Name - Concept Reference: American Ornithologists' Union (AOU). 1998. Check-list of North American birds. Seventh edition. American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C. [as modified by subsequent supplements and corrections published in The Auk]. Also available online: http://www.aou.org/.
Classification Level: Species
Species Group: Vertebrate Animal
Species Code: B-MAMU
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Craniata Aves Charadriiformes Alcidae
   
Conservation Status / Legal Designation
Global Status: G3 (Apr 2016)
Provincial Status: S3B,S3N (Mar 2015)
BC List: Blue
Provincial FRPA list: Y (May 2004)  
Provincial Wildlife Act:
COSEWIC Status: Threatened (May 2012)
SARA Schedule: 1  -  Threatened (Jun 2003)
General Status Canada: 1 - At Risk (2005)
Migratory Bird Convention Act: Y
   
Ecology & Life History
General Description: A chunky seabird with a black bill and an entirely dark tail. Breeding adult is dark brown above, heavily mottled below. In winter plumage, white below, with white scapular streak on otherwise dark upperparts. Juvenile resembles winter adult but has dusky-mottled underparts, which become mostly white by the first winter. (NGS 1983).
Global Reproduction Comments: Nesting season: late March to late September; downy young, and fledged juveniles have been observed June-September. Activity in forest nesting areas is highest from mid-April through late July in California and Oregon, early May through early August in Washington, and mid-May through early August in Alaska (see Levy 1993). Clutch size is 1. Incubation lasts about 30 days, by both sexes alternately in 24-hr shifts. Nestling is visited and fed by parent 2-4 times each day, fledges in 27-40 days (Marshall 1988, Levy 1993). Appears to nest semicolonially (see USFWS 1994). In a study on the British Columbia coast, foraging distance from nest (i.e. energy spent commuting) had no influence on nesting success (Hull et al. 2001). Generation time is around 10 years (COSEWIC 2012).
Global Ecology Comments: Solitary, or in pairs, small groups, or loose aggregations. In most areas, generally does not flock with other birds, but may participate in mixed-species feeding flocks in the absence of interference from larger diving birds (Mahon et al. 1992).

The only confirmed record of predation on an adult at its nest involved a Sharp-shinned Hawk in Alaskan old-growth forest (Marks and Naslund 1994).

Species has high fidelity to nesting areas and nest trees (see Nelson 1997).

Despite the urgent need for an assessment of the demographic state of populations, the species is so secretive that reliable estimates of the required vital rates are rare. Survival estimates obtained through capture-recapture data from a population in British Columbia were 0.8289 and 0.9289, based on different samples corresponding to two capture techniques. The study area had been and continues to be heavily logged (Cam et al. 2003).
Migration Characteristics:
(Global / Provincial)
 
    Nonmigrant:
    Local Migrant:
    Distant Migrant:
    Within Borders Migrant:
Y /
Y /
N /
na /
Habitats:
(Type / Subtype / Dependence)
Forest / Conifer Forest - Mesic (average) / Facultative - occasional use
Forest / Conifer Forest - Moist/wet / Facultative - frequent use
Lakes / Lake / Facultative - occasional use
Ocean / Kelp Bed / Facultative - frequent use
Ocean / Sheltered Waters - Marine / Facultative - frequent use
Ocean / Subtidal Marine / Facultative - frequent use
Riparian / Riparian Forest / Facultative - frequent use
Rock/Sparsely Vegetated Rock / Rock/Sparsely Vegetated Rock / Facultative - occasional use
Stream/River / Stream/River / Facultative - occasional use
Global Habitat Comments: Coastal areas, mainly in salt water within 2 km of shore (Marshall 1988), including bays and sounds; not uncommon up to 5 km offshore; occasionally also on rivers and lakes usually within 20 km of ocean (but up to 75 km), especially during breeding season (Carter and Sealy 1986). In Alaska, marine habitats mostly are offshore of large tracts of old-growth coastal coniferous forest, especially Sitka spruce and hemlock (Piatt and Ford 1993).

In central California, visited old-growth forest nesting areas (8-9 km from ocean) year-round; fall and winter visitation of nesting areas occurs regularly in other areas of North America as well; perhaps attendance in nonbreeding season is important in maintenance of pair bonds and nest sites (Naslund 1993). Nests often are in mature/old growth coniferous forest near the coast: on large mossy horizontal branch, mistletoe infection, witches broom, or other structure providing a platform high in mature conifer (e.g., Douglas-fir, mountain hemlock). Most nesting occurs in large stands of old growth. Nest sites generally have good overhead protection. See Quinlan and Hughes (1990), Singer et al. (1991), and USFWS (1996) for characteristics of tree nests.

In California, most inland activity takes place in or to the west of old-growth stands of 250 ha or more (Paton and Ralph 1990).

On the Queen Charlotte Islands, British Columbia, most inland activity (May-July) was in old growth forest, especially stands of large Sitka spruce and western hemlock (Rodway et al. 1993). Nesting or probable nesting has been recorded up to 47 km and 61 km inland in Oregon (Levy 1993), up to 84 km inland in Washington, and up to 56 km inland in California (USFWS 1994). On the British Columbia coast, nesting birds flew 12-102 kilometers (mean 39 kilometers) inland from foraging sites on the water (Hull et al. 2001).

In Alaska, a few percent of the population nests on islands on open barren ground or in a rock cavity, generally a short distance below a peak or ridge (Day et al. 1983, Carter and Sealy 1986, Marshall 1988, Kuletz 1990, Carter and Morrison 1992). Ford and Brown (1995) reported a clifftop nest in old-growth forest in southeastern Alaska.

Silent individuals flying below the forest canopy indicate nesting in the immediate area (Levy 1993).
Food Habits: Invertivore: Adult, Immature
Piscivore: Adult, Immature
Global Food Habits Comments: Diet includes fishes (sandlance, capelin, herring, etc.), crustaceans (mysids, euphausiids), mollusks. In British Columbia, adult diet during the breeding season is mostly fishes, primarily Pacific Sandlance and Pacific Herring; euphausiids are important in spring at Langara Island; sandlance are the prey most frequently fed to nestlings (Rodway et al., in Carter and Morrison 1992). May feed exclusively on freshwater prey for period of several weeks in some areas; feeds on fingerling Sockeye Salmon and salmon fry in some British Columbia lakes (Carter and Sealy 1986). Foraging occurs mainly in waters up to 80 m deep and up to 2 km from shore. Foraging dives may be up to about 30 m below surface.
Global Phenology: Crepuscular: Adult, Immature
Diurnal: Adult, Immature
Nocturnal: Adult, Immature
Global Phenology Comments: Young are fed at night or around dusk or dawn. Feeding has been observed at night (Carter and Sealy 1986). At Redwood Experimental Forest, northwestern California, activity levels were greatest 30 minutes before to 30 minutes after sunrise in May, June, and July (Paton et al., in Carter and Morrison 1992). In old growth forest in the Queen Charlotte Islands, British Columbia, number of detections peaked in late July; detections were most likely to occur on cloudy mornings (Rodway et al. 1993).
Provincial Phenology:
(1st half of month/
2nd half of month)
Colonial Breeder: N
Length(cm)/width(cm)/Weight(g): 25/ / 222
Elevation (m) (min / max): Global: 
Provincial: 
   
 
Distribution
Endemic: N
Global Range Comment: Breeding range extends from the western Aleutian Islands through coastal southern and southeastern Alaska, British Columbia (up to 100 kilometers inland), Washington, Oregon, and northern central California (mainly Del Norte and northern Humboldt counties to 15 km inland, southcentral Humboldt County 20-40 km inland, and southern San Mateo and northern Santa Cruz counties up to 20 km inland; Carter and Erickson in Carter and Morrison 1992); few occupied sites are known between Tillamook County in Oregon and the Olympic Peninsula in Washington (USFWS 1994). See USFWS (1994) and Federal Register (10 August 1995) for maps of proposed Critical Habitat in California, Oregon, and Washington. During the nonbreeding season, the range extends from southern Alaska south to central California, mostly adjacent to known or suspected nesting areas. Most of the Alaskan population is concentrated offshore of large tracts of coastal coniferous forests in southeastern Alaska (Alexander Archipelago), Prince William Sound, and the Kodiak Archipelago (Piatt and Ford 1993). See Marshall (1988), Carter and Morrison (1992), and Piatt et al. (2007) for further details for specific states and provinces.

Coded range extent pertains to breeding range.
 
Authors / Contributors
Global Information Author: HAMMERSON, G., REVISIONS BY S. CANNINGS
Last Updated: Jan 23, 2013
Provincial Information Author:
Last Updated:
   
References and Related Literature
American Ornithologists' Union (AOU). 1983. Check-list of North American Birds, 6th edition. Allen Press, Inc., Lawrence, Kansas. 877 pp.
B.C. Ministry of Environment. Recovery Planning in BC. B.C. Minist. Environ. Victoria, BC.
Bahn, V., and D. Newsom. 2000. Marbled Murrelet as Target Species For Land Management in Coastal British Columbia. Pp. 735-740 in L.M. Darling, ed. 2000. Proc. Conf. on the Biology and Manage. Species and Habitats at Risk, Kamloops, B.C., 15-19 Feb., 1999. Vol. 2; B.C. Minist. Environ., Lands and Parks, Victoria, BC, and Univ. College of the Cariboo, Kamloops, BC. 520pp.
Binford, L. C., B. G. Elliot, and S. W. Singer. 1975. Discovery of a nest and the downy young of the marbled murrelet. Wilson Bull. 87:303-319.
Blood, D.A. 1998. Marbled Murrelet. B.C. Minist. Environ., Lands and Parks, Wildl. Branch. 6pp.
British Columbia Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection. 2004. Marbled Murrelet in Accounts and measures for managing identified wildlife. British Columbia Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection, Victoria, BC. 52pp.
Burger, A., et al. 2000. Comparison of Coastal Fringe and Interior Forests as Reserves for Marbled Murrelets on Vancouver Island. The Condor 102(4): 915-920.
Burger, A.E. 2000. Bird in Hot Water: Responses by Marbled Murrelets to Variable Ocean Temperatures off Southwestern Vancouver Island. Pp. 723-732 in L.M. Darling, ed. 2000. Proc. Conf. on the Biology and Manage. Species and Habitats at Risk, Kamloops, B.C., 15-19 Feb., 1999. Vol. 2; B.C. Minist. Environ., Lands and Parks, Victoria, BC, and Univ. College of the Cariboo, Kamloops, BC. 520pp.
Burger, A.E., et al. 2004. Effects of Habitat Fragmentation and Forest Edges on Predators of Marbled Murrelets and Other Forest Birds on Southwest Vancouver Island. In T.D. Hooper, ed. Proc. of the Species at Risk 2004 Pathways to Recovery Conf. March 2-6, 2004, Victoria, B.C. Species at Risk 2004 Pathways to Recovery Conference Organizing Committee, Victoria, BC. 19pp.
Burger, A.E., and T.A. Chatwin, eds. 2002. Multi-Scale Studies of Populations, Distribution and Habitat Associations of Marbled Murrelets in Clayoquot Sound, British Columbia. B.C. Minist. Water, Land and Air Prot. 170pp.
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.
Carter, H. and S. Sealy. 2005. Who solved the mystery of the Marbled Murrelet? Northwest Nat. 86(1): 2-11.
Carter, H. R., and M. L. Morrison. 1992. Status and conservation of the marbled murrelet in North America. Procedings Western Foundation Vert. Zool. 5(1):1-134.
Carter, H. R., and S. G. Sealy. 1986. Year-round use of coastal lakes by marbled murrelets. Condor 88:473-477.
Chatwin, T., J. Cragg, T. Dunlop, and S. Leigh-Spencer. 2007. Marbled Murrelet Management Strategy for Clayoquot Sound. B.C. Minist. Environ., Nanaimo, BC. Wildl. Bull. No. B-122. 62pp.
Chatwin, T.A., L.E. Jones, A.E. Burger, and D. Newsom. 2000. Using Multi-Scale Inventory and Research to Conserve Marbled Murrelets in Clayoquot Sound, British Columbia. Pp. 741-749 in L.M. Darling, ed. 2000. Proc. Conf. on the Biology and Manage. Species and Habitats at Risk, Kamloops, B.C., 15-19 Feb., 1999. Vol. 2; B.C. Minist. Environ., Lands and Parks, Victoria, BC, and Univ. College of the Cariboo, Kamloops, BC. 520pp.
Cooper, J.M., and S.M. Beauchesne. 2004. Does the Wind Power Industry Threaten Marbled Murrelets or Do Marbled Murrelets Threaten the Wind Power Industry? In T.D. Hooper, ed. Proc. of the Species at Risk 2004 Pathways to Recovery Conf. March 2-6, 2004, Victoria, B.C. Species at Risk 2004 Pathways to Recovery Conference Organizing Committee, Victoria, BC. 14pp.
Day, R. H., K. L. Oakley, and D. R. Barnard. 1983. Nest sites and eggs of Kittlitz's and marbled murrelets. Condor 85:265-273.
Deal, J.A., and W.L. Harper. 2004. Marbled Murrelet Nesting Habitat Conservation Plan for the Nimpkish Valley, North Central Vancouver Island. In T.D. Hooper, ed. Proc. of the Species at Risk 2004 Pathways to Recovery Conf. March 2-6, 2004, Victoria, B.C. Species at Risk 2004 Pathways to Recovery Conference Organizing Committee, Victoria, BC. 16pp.
Divoky, G. J., and M. Horton. 1995. Breeding and natal dispersal, nest habitat loss and implications for Marbled Murrelet populations. Pages 83-87 IN C. J. Ralph, G. L. Hunt, Jr., M. Raphael, and J. F. Piatt (eds.). Ecology and conservation of the Marbled Murrelet. USDA, Forest Service, General Technical Report PSW-GTR-152, Albany, CA.
Ehrlich, P. R., D. S. Dobkin, and D. Wheye. 1992. Birds in Jeopardy: the Imperiled and Extinct Birds of the United States and Canada, Including Hawaii and Puerto Rico. Stanford University Press, Stanford, California. 259 pp.
Forest Practices Board. 2003. Marbled Murrelet Habitat Management - Considerations for the new Forest and Range Practices Act. Special Report. FPB/SR/13.
Forest Practices Code. 1997. Marbled Murrelet in Species and Plant Community Accounts for Identified Wildlife: Vol. 1. B.C. Minist. For. and B.C. Environ. 184pp.
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Harper, W.L., B.K. Schroeder, I.A. Manley, and J.A. Deal. 2004. Radar Monitoring of Marbled Murrelet Populations at Inland Sites on Northern Vancouver Island. In T.D. Hooper, ed. Proc. of the Species at Risk 2004 Pathways to Recovery Conf. March 2-6, 2004, Victoria, B.C. Species at Risk 2004 Pathways to Recovery Conference Organizing Committee, Victoria, BC. 18pp.
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Please visit the website Conservation Status Ranks for definitions of the data fields used in this summary report.

Suggested Citation:

B.C. Conservation Data Centre. 2013. Species Summary: Brachyramphus marmoratus. B.C. Minist. of Environment. Available: https://a100.gov.bc.ca/pub/eswp/ (accessed May 18, 2022).