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Kittlitz's Murrelet

A Kittlitz's Murrelet explodes from the water in Glacier Bay National Park.
A Kittlitz's Murrelet explodes from the water.

If you think the world has been completely mapped and catalogued, and there is nothing new to discover, consider the Kittlitz’s Murrelet. This uncommon little seabird is the least well known of the auk family, and probably the least well known of any bird in America. Kittlitz’s occur from southeast Alaska to Siberia, but are common only in a few isolated areas, and the total population may number as few as 20,000 individuals.

Scientists have only observed a few Kittlitz's nests, and when you consider their location, it’s easy to see why that is. Kittlitz’s nest in solitary spots high in mountainous terrain, as far as 75 km from the sea! Nests often occur in recently de-glaciated terrain, and the highest concentrations of these birds have been reported in Alaska, in areas with mountainous coasts and many glaciers.

An adult Kittlitz's Murrelet in winter plumage.
An adult Kittlitz's Murrelet in winter plumage.

The female simply lays one speckled egg in a depression on the bare ground.   Because their nests are so hard to find, and because there are so few of these birds, scientists have concentrated on describing the basic characteristics of the species. Scientists have only learned a little bit about the ecology of Kittlitz’s Murrelets.  Kittlitz's are generally found in the turbid waters near tidewater glaciers and at the heads of fiords.  They forage close to shore in sheltered bays and inlets.  Adults carry one fish at a time to their chick- a greyish-brown cryptic summer plumage- They are vulnerable to human disturbance because so much of their population is concentrated in a few small areas, and as much as 10% of the world population may have been killed by the Exxon Valdez oil spill.

To hear the call of a Kittlitz's Murrelet adult, click on one of the icons below.
Click to hear the call of a Kittitz's Murrelet chick wav (472k)
Click to hear the call of a Kittitz's Murrelet chick  mp3 (48k)

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Page Last Modified: August 07 2014 10:41:22.