Marbled Murrelet (Brachyramphus marmoratus)

The last time these difficult-to-spot birds were seen nesting in British Columbia was in 1990, and this was the first sighting in 200 years! Their secretive habits make it difficult to determine if conservation efforts are required.


The marbled murrelet is well camouflaged with a sooty brown head, back and wings in summer and black and white plumage in winter. The underside is barred or white. It is small, reaching only 24 cm in length and appears chubby due to its short neck.


Despite the difficulty in finding marbled murrelet nests, it is abundant from northern California to Alaska, spending its winters offshore. Its breeding habitat is usually several miles inland from the sea in old growth forests.


It is now believed that most of the highly cryptic nests built by this species are in trees 20 -40 m above the ground. However, some nests have also been found on treeless shorelines. Only one egg is laid per year and the parents take turns incubating it for 25 days. The chick is fed during the night when the parents can get to sea and back under the cover of the darkness. Capelins are commonly fed to the chick, but adults feed on a variety of small fish and crustaceans. After 27 days in the nest, chicks eat their downy cover, revealing their beautiful new black and white feathers underneath before flying off to sea.