WatchList Species Account for Kittlitz’s Murrelet
(Brachyramphus breviostris)

Qualifies for the list as a Red List Species

 

Kittlitz's Murrelet by Glen Tepke

Photo: Glen Tepke

One of the rarest of all seabirds, the North American population of Kittlitz’s Murrelet occurs in the waters of Alaska, migrating between offshore in winter and inshore in summer; lower numbers are scattered along the coast of eastern Russia. The entire world’s population is estimated at 9,000 to 25,000 birds. Since 1984 the Kittlitz’s Murrelets haved declined by 84% in Prince William Sound with similar declines elsewhere, trends which, if they continue, will cause the species to disappear within a few decades.

 

The birds nest on the ground in mountainous areas near glaciers, and forage during breeding season in near-shore marine waters. They winter at sea, but very little is known about their activities at that time. They are highly vulnerable to oil spills, and the impacts of global warming on glaciers may reduce the amount of their favored breeding habitat through increased sedimentation, which may reduced the bird’s ability to see their prey, and a lowered salinity, which result in fewer forage fish on which the murrelet feeds.

 

Disturbance by increased vessel traffic from tour and cruise ships may affect the bird, since their preferred breeding areas near tidewater glaciers are also the destination of these tour ships. The species is under review for listing under the Endangered Species Act.