Common Murre (Uria aalge)

Murres are named for the sound of their call, a purring murrr. Huge colonies and loud calls make nesting areas of common murres very noisy places!


At just over 1 kg and up to 43 cm long, the common murre is the largest member of the alcid family. It has a long and slender black beak, a white underside and its head, back, and wings are dark brown. In the winter, there is a distinctive black line above each eye.


The common murre is found along the North American Pacific coast from Alaska to California, and along the Atlantic coast throughout most of Labrador and Newfoundland. Breeding occurs throughout their range, but in the winter, the more northernly inhabitants head to the southern reaches of its range.


These large birds nest in great numbers on steep cliffs. The pear shape of the single egg minimizes rolling in this treacherous habitat. Because of the abundance of birds nesting in close proximity, eggs are a variety of colours - an adaptation that help parents identify their own. Both parents are responsible for incubation, keeping the egg resting on their webbed feet 28 - 34 days. During incubation, the egg rests on the webbed feet of the parent. Fledging occurs by the 24th day. Unlike other alcids, the main threat to common murre populations is destructive winds or storms that can knock the egg off the cliff face, rather than predation.