Index of Species Information

WILDLIFE SPECIES:  Brachyramphus marmoratus


WILDLIFE SPECIES: Brachyramphus marmoratus
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION : Tesky, Julie L. 1994. Brachyramphus marmoratus. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: [].
ABBREVIATION : BRMA COMMON NAMES : marbled murrelet murrelet TAXONOMY : The currently accepted scientific name for the marbled murrelet is Brachyramphus marmoratus (Gmelin). It is in the family Alicidae. There are two recognized subspecies but only B. marmoratus marmoratus occurs in North America [2,3]. ORDER : Charadriiformes CLASS : Bird FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS : Threatened [35] OTHER STATUS : Information on state-level protected status of the marbled murrelet in the United States is available at NatureServe.


WILDLIFE SPECIES: Brachyramphus marmoratus
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION : Marbled murrelets occur in summer from Alaska's Kenai Peninsula, Barren islands, and Aleutian islands south along the coast of North America to Point Sal, Santa Barbara County, in south-central California [3,16]. Marbled murrelets winter mostly within the same general area, except that they tend to vacate the most northern sections of their range and have been recorded as far south as Imperial Beach of San Diego County, California [16]. ECOSYSTEMS : FRES20 Douglas-fir FRES23 Fir-spruce FRES24 Hemlock-Sitka spruce FRES27 Redwood STATES :
BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS : 1 Northern Pacific Border 2 Cascade Mountains 3 Southern Pacific Border KUCHLER PLANT ASSOCIATIONS : K001 Spruce - cedar - hemlock forest K002 Cedar - hemlock - Douglas-fir forest K003 Silver fir - Douglas-fir forest K004 Fir - hemlock forest K006 Redwood forest SAF COVER TYPES : 205 Mountain hemlock 223 Sitka spruce 224 Western hemlock 225 Western hemlock - Sitka spruce 226 Coastal true fir - hemlock 227 Western redcedar - western hemlock 228 Western redcedar 229 Pacific Douglas-fir 230 Douglas-fir - western hemlock 231 Port-Orford-cedar 232 Redwood 234 Douglas-fir - tanoak - Pacific madrone SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES : NO-ENTRY PLANT COMMUNITIES : In northern regions where coniferous forests nest sites are unavailable, marbled murrelets occupy alpine or tundra near the ocean [16]. In Washington and Oregon, marbled murrelets commonly nest in Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) dominated stands. They also select stands dominated by mountain hemlock (Tsuga mertensiana), western redcedar (Thuja plicata), and Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis) for nesting [4,16]. In California, nests are most often located in redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) dominated stands with scattered Sitka spruce, western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla) and Douglas-fir. Marbled murrelets also occur in stands dominated by Port-Orford-cedar (Chamaecyparis lawsoniana) [19,22].


WILDLIFE SPECIES: Brachyramphus marmoratus
TIMING OF MAJOR LIFE HISTORY EVENTS : Age at sexual maturity - Marbled murrelets do not breed until they are at least 2 years old [16]. Nesting and brooding - Marbled murrelets nest from mid-April to late September [16]. Peak activity occurs from mid-June to late July in California, and the second week of July to mid-August in Oregon [17]. Marbled murrelet are semicolonial in nesting habits. Two nests found in Washington were located only 150 feet (46 m) apart. Not all mature adults nest every year [4]. Marbled murrelets lay only one egg. The egg is incubated by both parents for about 30 days. Adults fly from ocean feeding areas to inland nest sites, mostly at dusk and dawn. They feed nestlings at least once and sometimes twice per day or night. Usually only one fish is carried to the young [4,16]. Fledging - Nestlings fledge in 28 days. Young marbled murrelets remain in the nest longer than other alcids and molt into their juvenile plumage before leaving the nest [16]. Fledglings fly directly from the nest to the ocean [4]. Migration - Some marbled murrelet populations probably migrate south in fall and north in spring. However, these migration patterns are not well understood [7]. PREFERRED HABITAT : Marbled murrelets are coastal birds that occur mainly near saltwater within 1.2 miles (2 km) of shore [16]. However, marbled murrelets have been found up to 59 miles (80 km) inland in Washington, 35 miles (56 km) inland in Oregon, 22 miles (37 km) inland in northern California, and 11 miles (18 km) inland in central California. Over 90 percent of all marbled murrelet observations in the northern Washington Cascades were within 37 miles (60 km) of the coast. In Oregon, marbled murrelets are observed most often within 12 miles (20 km) of the ocean [4]. Many marbled murrelets regularly visit coastal lakes. Most lakes used by marbled murrelets are within 12 miles (20 km) of the ocean, but a few birds have been found at lakes as far inland as 47 miles (75 km). All lakes used by marbled murrelets occur within potential nesting habitat [8]. Nesting habitat - From southeast Alaska southward, marbled murrelets use mature or old-growth forest stands near the coastline for nesting [4,7,16,27]. These forests are generally characterized by large trees (>32 inches [80 cm] d.b.h.), a multistoried canopy, moderate to high canopy closure or an open crown canopy [17,26], large snags, and numerous downed snags in all stages of decay [4]. Marbled murrelets tend to nest in the oldest trees in the stand [4]. In Oregon, forests begin to exhibit old-growth characteristics at about 175 to 250 years of age [17]. Moss, on which marbled murrelets nest, forms on the limbs of Douglas-fir that are more than 150 years old [16,17]. The only four marbled murrelet tree nests found before 1990 shared the following characteristics: (1) located in a large tree (>47 inches [120 cm] d.b.h.) with an open crown structure, (2) on a moss-covered limb that is camouflaged, partially shaded, and approximately horizontal with a diameter (including associated moss) of at least 14 inches (36 cm), and (3) located within the middle or lower part of a live crown [26]. However, Marshall [29] stated that because of their low aerial bouyancy marbled murrelets often nest high in the treetops or on steep slopes. Habitat must be sufficiently open to allow for easy flight [17]. All marbled murrelet nests found in Washington, Oregon, and California were located in old-growth trees that ranged from 38 inches (88 cm) d.b.h. to 210 inches (533 cm) d.b.h. with a mean of 80 inches (203 cm) d.b.h. Nests were located high above the ground and had good overhead protection but allowed easy access to the exterior forest [4]. Marbled murrelets may use the same nest in successive years [17,29]. Stand size is also important in nest sites. Marbled murrelets more commonly occupy stands greater than 500 acres (202 ha) than stands less than 100 acres (40 ha). However, marbled murrelets may nest in remnant old-growth trees or groves that are surrounded by younger trees [17]. In California, marbled murrelets are usually absent from stands less than 60 acres (24 ha) in size. In Washington, marbled murrelets are found more often when old-growth and mature forests make up over 30 percent of the landscape. Fewer marbled murrelets are found when clearcut and meadow areas make up more than 25 percent of the landscape. Concentrations of marbled murrelets offshore are almost always adjacent to old-growth or mature forests onshore [4,16], although marbled murrelets may not use the interior of dense stands [29]. Where large trees are absent in the northern parts of marbled murrelet range, marbled murrelets nest in depressions on the ground, in rock cavities on the ground, or on rock outcrops [9,13,25,26]. Marbled murrelets are both ground nesters and tree nesters where forests and treeless areas meet [16]. Foraging habitat - Marbled murrelets forage in the ocean near shore and in inland saltwater areas such as bays, sounds, and saltwater passageways. Some also forage on inland freshwater lakes [17]. Flocks of 50 or more birds have been observed near freshwater lakes [8]. Subadults occur at sea throughout the summer. Sealy [30] determined that marbled murrelets feed within 1,640 feet (500 m) of shore. Winter habitat - Marbled murrelet winter habitat is the same as the nesting and foraging habitat. During the winter marbled murrelets use inland old-growth or mature sites for roosting, courtship, and investigating nest sites [17,18]. The use of inland lakes during the nonbreeding season occurs in conjunction with visits to nesting areas [8]. COVER REQUIREMENTS : NO-ENTRY FOOD HABITS : Marbled murrelets feed below the water surface on small fish and invertebrates [16,17]. Some principal foods include sand lance (Ammodytes hexapterus), Pacific herring (Clupea haringus), capelin (Mallotus villosus), and the invertebrates Euphausia pacifica and Thysanoessa spinifera [16,17,23]. Marbled murrelets do not feed in large flocks as do other alcids, although loose aggregations occur in winter. While feeding during the breeding season marbled murrelets occur in pairs or as single individuals. Subadults feed singly; but in early July, when pairs of adults are still feeding young, mixed flocks begin to form [16]. Marbled murrelets feed during the day and at night [17]. PREDATORS : Steller's jays (Cyanocitta stelleri) and common ravens (Corvus corax) prey on marbled murrelet eggs and nestlings [26]. MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : The principal factor threatening the persistence of marbled murrelet over the southern portions of its range is harvesting of old-growth and mature forests [17]. Old growth harvesting has been heavier in coastal forests than further inland; and short rotation ages (currently < 80 years) do not allow conifers to develop the large diameter flat limbs with thick moss layers used for nesting. Old-growth and mature forests within the range of marbled murrelets are essential to marbled murrelet perpetuation [16,29]. Mortality from gill-net fisheries - Marbled murrelets are the alcid most frequently killed by gill-nets. In Barkley Sound off Vancouver Island, British Columbia, an estimated 380 marbled murrelets were killed by gill-nets in 1980. This accounted for 7.8 percent of the potential fall population in the area [29]. Sealy and Carter [24] reported that 600 to 800 or more marbled murrelets are killed (almost exclusively at night) annually in Prince William Sound, Alaska, due to gill-nets. Recommended conservation measures include changes in areas where the gill-net fishery takes place and prohibition of night fishing. Gill-net fishing does not occur off the Oregon coast, but is widespread in Puget Sound [16]. Mortality from oil pollution - Marbled murrelets have been rated as having the highest oil vulnerability index of any seabird in southeast Alaska. This is based in part on their feeding in loose aggregations close to shore. Development in the petroleum industry along the Pacific coast will increase the threat of oil pollution [24].


WILDLIFE SPECIES: Brachyramphus marmoratus
DIRECT FIRE EFFECTS ON ANIMALS : Adult marbled murrelets can probably easily escape fire. Fire has the potential to adversely affect marbled murrelet reproductive success if it destroys the nest tree and/or kills the egg or nestling. HABITAT RELATED FIRE EFFECTS : Because marbled murrelets depend on mature or old-growth stands for nesting and roosting, fires that destroy or reduce the size of these stands will probably have an adverse effect on marbled murrelet populations. However, marbled murrelets sometimes nest in unlogged mature or large sawtimber stands burned 80 to 200 years ago where open crown canopies or steep slopes exist to provide access to and from large limbs [16]. Marbled murrelets nest in habitat types characterized by long fire free intervals. Sitka spruce stands in western Washington typically have a fire free interval of 1,146 years or more. Along the northern and southern Oregon coast, Sitka spruce has a fire free interval of 200 to 400 years. Fires that do occur in Sitka spruce are usually stand replacing. Western hemlock forests along the coast have a fire free interval of about 750 years [31]. Coastal redwood is tolerant of low-severity fires which appear to have occurred on mesic sites at 200-to 500-year intervals before the arrival of European settlers [15,31]. FIRE USE : NO-ENTRY FIRE REGIMES : Find fire regime information for the plant communities in which this species may occur by entering the species name in the FEIS home page under "Find Fire Regimes".


WILDLIFE SPECIES: Brachyramphus marmoratus
REFERENCES : 1. Abate, Tom. 1992. Which bird is the better indicator species for old-growth forest?. BioScience. 42(1): 8-9. [17437] 2. American Ornithologists' Union. 1957. Checklist of North American birds. 5th ed. Baltimore, MD: The Lord Baltimore Press, Inc. 691 p. [21235] 3. American Ornithologists' Union. 1983. Checklist of North American birds. 6th ed. Lawrence, KS: Allen Press, Inc. 877 p. [21234] 4. Anon. 1992. Determination of threatened status for the Washington, Oregon, and California population of the marbled murrelet. Oregon Birds. 18(4): 120-121. [21468] 5. Binford, Laurence C.; Elliott, Bruce G.; Singer, Steven W. 1975. Discovery of a nest and the downy young of the marbled murrelet. Wilson Bulletin. 87(3): 303-319. [23735] 6. Boyle, T. J. B. 1991. Biodiversity of Canadian forests: current status and future challenges. Forestry Chronicle. 68(4): 444-453. [20583] 7. Campbell, R. Wayne; Dawe, Neil K.; McTaggart-Cowan, Ian; [and others]. 1990. The birds of British Columbia: Vol II: Nonpasserines: Diurnal birds of prey through woodpeckers. Victoria, BC: Royal British Columbia Museum. 635 p. [22692] 8. Carter, Harry R.; Sealy, Spencer G. 1986. Year-round use of coastal lakes by marbled murrelets. Condor. 88: 473-477. [23182] 9. Day, Robert H.; Oakley, Karen L.; Barnard, David R. 1983. Nest sites and eggs of Kittlitz's and marbled murrelets. Condor. 85(3): 265-273. [23644] 10. Eyre, F. H., ed. 1980. Forest cover types of the United States and Canada. Washington, DC: Society of American Foresters. 148 p. [905] 11. Garrison, George A.; Bjugstad, Ardell J.; Duncan, Don A.; [and others]. 1977. Vegetation and environmental features of forest and range ecosystems. Agric. Handb. 475. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 68 p. [998] 12. Hamer, Thomas E.; Cummins, Eric; Ritchie, William B. 1992. Relationship between forest characteristics and the use of inland sites by marbled murrelets in western Washington. In: Pacific Seabird Group Bulletin. 19(1): 49. [Abstract]. [23186] 13. Johnston, Stuart; Carter, Harry R. 1985. Cavity-nesting marbled murrelets. Wilson Bulletin. 97(1): 1-3. [23183] 14. Kuchler, A. W. 1964. Manual to accompany the map of potential vegetation of the conterminous United States. Special Publication No. 36. New York: American Geographical Society. 77 p. [1384] 15. Lehman, Robert N.; Allendorf, John W. 1989. The effects of fire, fire exclusion and fire management on raptor habitats in the western United States. In: Proceedings of the western raptor management symposium and workshop; 1987 October 26-28; Boise, ID. Scientific and Technical Series No. 12. Washington, DC: National Wildlife Federation: 236-244. [22324] 16. Marshall, David B. 1988. Status of the marbled murrelet in North America: with special emphasis on populations in California, Oregon, and Washington. Biological Report 88(30). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service. 19 p. [23180] 17. Marshall, David B. 1989. The marbled murrelet. Audubon Wildlife Report 1989/1990: 435-455. [23187] 18. Nelson, S. Kim. 1991. The marbled murrelet in western Oregon: a summary of current knowledge. In: Ruggiero, Leonard F.; Aubry, Keith B.; Carey, Andrew B.; Huff, Mark H., technical coordinators. Wildlife and vegetation of unmanaged Douglas-fir forests. Gen. Tech. Rep. PNW-GTR-285. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station: 529-530. [Poster paper]. [23513] 19. Paton, Peter W. C.; Ralph, C. John. 1990. Distribution of the marbled murrelet at inland sites in California. Northwestern Naturalist. 71(3): 72-84. [23188] 20. Paton, Peter W. C.; Ralph, C. John. 1991. Geographic distribution of the marbled murrelet in California at inland sites. In: Ruggiero, Leonard F.; Aubry, Keith B.; Carey, Andrew B.; Huff, Mark H., technical coordinators. Wildlife and vegetation of unmanaged Douglas-fir forests. Gen. Tech. Rep. PNW-GTR-285. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station: 530. [Poster paper]. [23514] 21. Quinlan, Susan E.; Hughes, Jeffrey H. 1990. Location and description of a marbled murrelet tree nest site in Alaska. Condor. 92: 1068-1073. [23184] 22. Ralph, C. John; Paton, Peter W. C.; Zakis, Aivars; Strachan, Gary. 1990. Breeding distribution of the marbled murrelet in Redwood National Park and vicinity during 1988. In: Van Riper, Charles, III; Stohlgren, Thomas J.; Veirs, Stephen D., Jr.; Hillyer, Silvia Castillo, eds. Examples of resource inventory and monitoring inNational Parks of California: Proceedings, 3rd biennial conference on research in California's National Parks; 1988 September 13-15; Davis, CA: Transactions and Proceedings Series No. 8. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service: 57-70. [15196] 23. Sanger, Gerald A. 1987. Winter diets of common murres and marbled murrelets in Kachemak Bay, Alaska. Condor. 89: 426-430. [23642] 24. Sealy, Spencer G.; Carter, Harry R. 1984. At-sea distribution & nesting habitat of the marbled murrelet in British Columbia: problems in the conservation of a solitarily nesting seabird. In: Croxall, J. P.; Evans, P. G. H.; Schreiber, R. W., eds. Status and conservation of the world's seabirds. ICBP Technical Publication No. 2. [Place of publication unknown]: [Publisher unknown]: 737-756. [23189] 25. Simons, THeodore R. 1980. Discovery of a ground-nesting marbled murrelet. Condor. 82(1): 1-9. [23675] 26. Singer, Steven W.; Naslund, Nancy L.; Singer, Stephanie A.; Ralph, C. John. 1991. Discovery and observations of two tree nests of the marbled murrelet. Condor. 93: 330-339. [20661] 27. Nelson, S. Kim; Hamer, Tom. 1992. Nest-site characteristics of marbled murrelets. Seabird Group Bulletin. 19(1): 52. [Abstract]. [25336] 28. California Department of Fish and Game, Natural Diversity Data Base. 1992. Special animals. Sacramento, CA: California Department of Fish and Game, Natural Diversity Data Base. 28 p. [23402] 29. Marshall, David B. 1988. The marbled murrelet joins the old-growth forest conflict. American Birds. 42(2): 202-212. [23181] 30. Sealy, Spencer G. 1975. Feeding ecology of the ancient and marbled murrelets near Langara Island, British Columbia. Canadian Journal of Zoology. 53: 418-433. [23643] 31. Agee, James K. 1993. Fire ecology of Pacific Northwest forests. Washington, DC: Island Press. 493 p. [22247] 32. Bernard, Stephen R.; Brown, Kenneth F. 1977. Distribution of mammals, reptiles, and amphibians by BLM physiographic regions and A.W. Kuchler's associations for the eleven western states. Tech. Note 301. Denver, CO: U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management. 169 p. [434] 33. The Network of Natural Heritage Programs and Conservation Data Centers and The Nature Conservancy. 1994. Federally listed vertebrates. Arlington, VA: The Nature Conservancy, Central Conservation Databases. 7 p. [23105] 34. The Network of Natural Heritage Programs and Conservation Data Centers and The Nature Conservancy. 1994. Element distribution - North America, vertebrates. Arlington, VA: The Nature Conservancy, Central Conservation Databases. 31 p. [23374] 35. U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service. 2016. Endangered Species Program, [Online]. Available: [86564] 36. Washington Department of Wildlife. 1994. Species of special concern in Washington - state and federal status. Olympia, WA: Washington Department of Wildlife. 41 p. [25414] 37. Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. 1992. Canadian species at risk. Ottawa, ON. 10 p. [26183]