Los Farallones

Dispatches from Point Blue’s field station on the Farallon Islands National Wildlife Refuge

The Secret Lives of Murres

By San Jose State University graduate student and former Point Blue intern Sean Gee.

Pete Warzybok (Old Man Farallon) capturing a common murre from the Sea Lion Cove Blind. Photo by Mike Johns.


Common murres are the most populous seabird species breeding on the Farallones, and one of the most abundant seabirds in the north Pacific. Point Blue Conservation Science has been collecting data on the population size, breeding biology, and chick diet of murres on the island since 1968. In addition, ship-based surveys have given us a picture of common murre distribution in the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, but one question remains – where do murres from the Farallones forage during the breeding season? That’s where my research comes in! This year we began collecting three-dimensional data on murre movement through the use of GPS devices and time-depth recorders. My aim is to examine how murres move above, on, and below the surface of the ocean, and how their foraging behavior changes as they go from incubating eggs to rearing their chicks. Results from this project may prove valuable in linking foraging effort to chick success, particularly in the face of a rapidly changing ocean landscape. Soon their secrets will be revealed to us!

(From left to right) Sean Gee, Pete Warzybok, and Grace Kumaishi deploying a GPS tag on a common murre captured from the Sea Lion Cove Blind. Photo by Mike Johns.
A common murre stands above a colony of many thousands on Fertilizer Flat. Photo by Mike Johns.