Marbled murrelet egg. Courtesy National Park Service

The imperiled marbled murrelet (Brachyramphus marmoratus)  is a cup-sized, coastal bird that few people have had the opportunity to observe. Columbia Land Trust has conserved more than 1,600 acres of tidal wetlands and old-growth forests along Washington’s Long Beach Peninsula and Willapa Bay in hopes that the small populations of marbled murrelets remaining will find safe harbor in the region’s protected areas.

                        Marbled murrelet plumage change. Illustration by Laurel Mundy. laurelmundy.com

                                           

IDENTIFICATION

Short neck and tail feathers, small black bill and pointed wings. Breeding adults appear mottled brown and white. Nonbreeding adults have black napes, backs, and wings with white underbellies. Listen for their high-pitched keer keer calls.

LIFE

Travels up to 50 miles inland to nest in mature or old-growth forests. Lays a single egg in tree depressions covered in moss and lichen. Eggs are tinted green with brown specks. Both parents switch off incubation and feeding duties, and then after approximately 30 days in the nest, fledglings fly directly to the ocean to feed primarily on fish. Peak nesting season occurs around mid-July to August in Oregon and Washington.

STATUS

In 1992, marbled murrelets were federally listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in Washington, Oregon, and California. Critical habitat was designated in 1996, and revised in 2011. Populations have declined significantly due to deforestation, habitat fragmentation, nest predation, and marine environment disturbances such as gillnets and oil spills.

Learn more about the Land Trust’s projects on the Pacific Coast