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Kittlitz's Murrelet

Brachyramphus brevirostris

Length: 9.5 inches Wingspan: 17 inches Seasonality: Non-resident in South Dakota
ID Keys: Warm brownish speckling on breeding birds, dark upperparts and white underparts on non-breeding birds, dark wings at all seasons

Kittlitz's Murrelet - Brachyramphus brevirostrisThe Kittlitz's Murrelet is a small seabird found around coastal Alaska at all seasons.  They are similar to the Marbled Murrelet and are found in many of the same areas, but they are much less widespread and common.  Populations are thought to be in sharp decline, and the IUCN lists the species as "critically endangered".  Reasons for the decline aren't perfectly understood, but glacial recession due to climate change is a strong contender as a threat to the species, given that they often nest and forage in the vicinity of glaciers.  Contamination with hydrocarbons, loss of forage species, and mortality due to gill-net fishing are also possible reasons for decline of the species.

Habitat: During the summer breeding season, found on both islands and mainland Alaska, using steep rocky slopes such as rock slides and talus slopes for nesting.  Outside of the nesting season, found in cold waters, usually shallow waters close to shore.

Diet: Primarily feeds on small crustaceans, likely also will feed on small fish.

Behavior: Forages by diving and swimming underwater, using its feet to propel it as it chases prey.

Nesting: The Kittliz's Murrelet is a rather mysterious species and there has been little observation of breeding behaviors.  They nest on steep rocky slopes, with the nest site usually in a protected area such as at the base of a rock. The female lays a single egg directly on the ground.  Details of incubation and parental care are poorly known.

Song: Has a weak low-pitched groaning.

Migration: Considered a permanent resident in most of their range.  However, birds in the northern part of the breeding range off of western Alaska move southward short distances for winter, as the Bering Sea freezes. 

Interactive eBird Map: Click here to access an interactive eBird map of Kittlitz's Murrelet sightings

Similar Species: Very similar to the Marbled Murrelet and Long-billed Murrelet.

Conservation Status: The IUCN believes the global population of Kittlitz's Murrelet is only between 20,000 and 40,000 and is decreasing rapidly.  The species is listed as critically endangered.

Further Information: 1) Audubon - Kittlitz's Murrelet

2) BirdLife International - Kittlitz's Murrelet

3) Alaska Seabird Information Series - Kittlitz's Murrelet

Photo Information: Photo taken by Ron Niebrugge - July 29th, 2006 - Prince William Sound, Alaska - Photo licensed under Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial ShareAlike 2.0 Generic License.


Click below for a higher-resolution map
Kittzlitz's Murrelet - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Non-resident in South Dakota

Additional Kittlitz's Murrelet Photos (coming soon!!)