Migratory Bird Program
Conserving the Nature of America
Focal Species

Kittlitz’s Murrelet (Brachyramphus brevirostris)


The Kittlitz’s Murrelet (Brachyramphus brevirostris) has been identified as a focal species of management concern because of a small global range, small population size (10,000-28,000 birds) and an extremely rapid recent population decline.  Kittlitz’s Murrelet is found in North America only in Alaska where it breeds along the southern and western coasts. Its winter grounds are not known, although recent surveys from icebreakers have found Kittlitz's in the open water leads of the Bering Sea icepack.  In some breeding areas, the population has experienced an alarming 80-90% decline over the last 20 years.

 This decline is thought to be related to the recession of glaciers and the associated loss of preferred prey that use glacially-influenced waters, perhaps due to climate change.  
Other threats include chronic oil pollution, disturbance caused by tour boats, and capture in fishery gill-nets. A potential impact from climate change may be alterations in their upland nesting habitat, as glaciers retreat and vegetation and predators move to upper elevations.  Due to their small body size and diving foraging behavior, as well as small population size and restricted distribution, Kittlitz’s Murrelet may also be particularly susceptible to effects of human-caused disasters such as oil spills.  

Sources:

Alaska Department of Fish and Game. 2006. A Wealth Maintained: A Strategy for Conserving Alaska's Diverse Wildlife and Fish Resources. Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Juneau, AK.  Retrieved June 2010 from http://www.sf.adfg.state.ak.us/statewide/ngplan/NG_outline.cfm.

BirdLife International.  2010.  Species factsheet: Brachyramphus brevirostris, Kittlitz's Murrelet. Retrieved June 2010 from http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/species/index.html?action=
SpcHTMDetails.asp&sid=3310&m=0.

Day, R. H., K. J. Kuletz, and D. A. Nigro. 1999. Kittlitz's Murrelet (Brachyramphus brevirostris). The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Retrieved June 2010 from http://bna.birds.cornell.edu/bna/species/435.

 

 

Kittlitz’s Murrelet

Kittlitz's Murrelet

Kittlitz’s Murrelet - Photo by Gerald A Sanger

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Last updated: December 2, 2011