WatchList Species Account for Marbled Murrelet (Brachyramphus marmoratus)

Qualifies for the list as a Declining Yellow List Species


Marbled Murrelet
Photo: Hamer Enviornmental LP

Unique in its family for its nesting habits, this small alcid builds its nest in tall, old-growth trees in coastal forests, from the Aleutians and the southern coast of Alaska south to northern California, and from eastern Siberia south to Japan. The first nest of this species was not discovered until 1961 in Asia and 1974 in North America. Since it is a solitary nester, and feeds at sea and visits its nests only during periods of low light, finding and studying breeding Marbled Murrelets is a challenge.


During the winter this wary species is found along the Pacific coast from the Aleutians to Monterey Bay, California. The population and distribution of this murrelet have declined due to logging and coastal development, which have destroyed much of its nesting territory; gill-net fishing and pollution from oil spills also threaten the species.


Marbled Murrelet populations may have declined by as much as 40%; the bird is now rare or uncommon along the Pacific coast of the U.S., where it was common or abundant in the early 20th century. Populations have also declined severely in the northern Gulf of Alaska, though Alaska remains the stronghold of the species, with up to 90% of the total North American numbers found there. The species is listed as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act.


Conservation of the coastal forests where it breeds is the most essential step to protect the species, but limiting of gill-net fishing and containment of oil spills are both important for its continued survival.