Quantcast

Ancient Murrelet

The Ancient Murrelet (Synthliboramphus antiquus) is a bird of the auk family. It breeds in colonies principally on the Aleutian Islands and other Alaskan islands.

They female lays one or two eggs directly amongst tree roots or in rock crevices. These small auks are nocturnal on the breeding grounds, presumably to reduce predation, and for the same reason the young are never fed at the nest, being taken to sea a couple of days after hatching. The parents call to the young from out at sea, and the chicks swim towards the adults who keep moving further out throughout the night.

Ancient Murrelets migrate south in winter as far as California; a few birds have even been found inland in the USA, most likely carried by autumn storms. The most remarkable record of this relatively short-distance Pacific migrant was a bird found on Lundy, Devon in spring 1990. Even more remarkably, the same bird returned to this British island the following spring.

This small auk species is black on the head, throat and rear neck, grey-backed, and has white underparts. The yellow bill is short and stubby. It has a small rounded black tail. The summer adults have white head streaks giving an aged look and leading to the English name. Other plumages are similar, but lack the crown streaks.

This auk’s flight is strong and direct, and it flies with fast wing beats due to its short wings. These birds forage for food like other auks, by swimming underwater. They mainly eat fish, also some crustaceans and other small invertebrates.

Ancient Murrelet


comments powered by Disqus