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Common Murre

Bird Bio

Sue Abbott and Sarah Warnock


Murres at nest sites.
Common Murre
(Uria aalge californica)

Characteristics: Black and white, 15-17" long, with bullet-shaped body and long, pointed bill.

Distribution: Locally abundant off Pacific and North Atlantic coasts of North America. Californica subspecies currently breeds from British Columbia south to Big Sur, CA.

Population trends: Murres in Central California are just starting to recover from 150 years of human exploitation and disturbance, DDT, gill netting, and oil pollution. Estimated at more than a million in the mid-1800s, there were fewer than 5,000 by the 1950s. Populations are beginning to increase but remain less than 10% of historic size.

Habitat: Feeds in open oceans and bays, within 40-60 km of the shore. Nests on rocky islands and sea cliffs.

Feeding: Uses strong wings to "fly" underwater catching fish and marine invertebrates. Its dives, to depths up to 600 feet, may last over a minute.

Sounds: Loud, coarse, low arrr moans. Squabbling gwoo-err. Chicks, a whistled insistent weeoo and a shriller quee-wee.

Life span: 20 years or more (26.5 years known).

Nesting behavior: Large colonies. Monogamous; mates may remain together for several years. Lays a single egg on bare rock or narrow cliff ledge. Egg's pear shape minimizes risk of rolling away. Adults recognize their egg by its color and scribble markings. Both incubate, in 12-24 hour shifts, and both feed chick. Fledging varies (23-24 days on Farallon Islands). Fledgling dives off cliff and is escorted by male at sea for 1-2 months while both undergo molt.