Endangered Species
Alaska Region   


Kittlitz’s murrelet

Designation: In October 2013, we published a "not-warranted" 12-Month Finding in the Federal Register.

The Kittlitz’s murrelet is a small seabird (approximately 0.5 pound) that dives and pursues small fish and marine invertebrates (krill) by flapping its wings underwater. In southeast and south central Alaska it selects a nest site on the ground, on barren, steep-sided mountains or ledges of steep, rocky cliffs adjacent to the coastal waters where it feeds.  In the Aleutian Islands nests are found on mountain slopes with approximately 40 percent cover from low growing forbs and grasses.  A single egg is laid on the ground and the parents take turns incubating it for about 30 days. The parents feed the chick whole fish like sand lance or capelin.

Critical Habitat: None designated

Distribution: The Kittlitz’s murrelet occupies a vast area from the Russian Far East across to the Aleutian Islands and from southeast Alaska to northwest Alaska.  During the breeding season in Alaska it is often associated with glaciated or recently glaciated landscapes in southeast and south central Alaska where it is more common, although nests have been documented throughout their range, including Russia.

Threats:  We are currently working to understand the factors that led to the apparent population decline in some areas.  Changes in the oceanic prey base may have occurred.  Research indicates that reproductive success is currently very low, but annually variable, and that adult survival is also low.  Predation from terrestrial and avian predators is a known source of mortality for eggs, chicks, and adults.  In addition these birds are susceptible to oil spills, entanglement in fishing nets, and human disturbance.

Conservation efforts:  Currently we are trying to fill in gaps in our understanding of this bird through several research projects.  By understanding their life history and factors that affect their survival and reproduction, we will be better able to develop effective conservation strategies.

Contacts: Sonja Jahrsdoerfer (907) 786-3323

Federal Register Notice (10/3/2013)
Fact Sheet
(Sept. 2013)
Draft Peer Review Plan (5/31/2013)

To link to a series of scientific articles published in 2011 devoted to the status of Kittlitz’s murrelet go to

Marine Ornithology volume 39 (1)

Last updated: October 17, 2013