Habitat: The Common murre is strictly a marine bird. In the winter it is generally at least 8 km offshore, up to the continental shelf. During breeding season, it is found closer to sea cliffs and rocky islands.
Summer Range: The Common murre breeds in limited coastal regions along both the Atlantic and Pacific Coasts of Canada. In British Columbia, the murre breeds along Cleland, Sartine, and Triangle Islands. In the East, the murre breeds along the coasts of Labrador, southeastern Quebec, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, and southern New Brunswick.
Winter Range: In Canada, the murre winters offshore from northern Newfoundland, southward and along the coast of British Columbia.
Food: Common murres mainly eat small schooling fish such as polar cod and herring. They also eat molluscs, marine worms, and crustaceans. They can consume up to 32 g of food in a day. Murres swim underwater using their wings for propulsion to search for food. Murres have been observed diving up to 50 m and can remain underwater for up to two minutes.
Breeding Behaviour: Murres nest in huge colonies, with incubating birds standing side by side on long narrow ledges. Courtship displays include bowing, billing and preening. The male points its head vertically and makes croaking and growling noises to attract the females.
Nest Type and Egg Description: Common murres nest in colonies on cliffs, or among boulders and rocks, and lay a single egg that is incubated for about a month. Eggs are pointed at one end, so much so that they roll around in a circle on a flat surface. This may keep the egg from rolling off the nest shelf. These eggs are quite varied in colour and markings, which may allow parents to recognize their own egg when they return to the colony from the sea.
Although populations of this bird are numerous, they are threatened by oil spills and gill-netting. Pacific populations have declined in the past, but appear to have partially recovered. Atlantic populations appear to be increasing.
Information on this page compiled by Jessie Blake.
BirdLife International. http://www.birdlife.org
Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. http://www.cosewic.gc.ca/eng/sct5/index_e.cfm
Cornell Lab of Ornithology. All About Birds. http://www.birds.cornell.edu/AllAboutBirds/.
Ehrlich, Paul R. 1988. The Birder’s Handbook. Simon and Schuster, New York.
Godfrey, Earl W. 1986. Birds of Canada. National Museums of Canada, Ottawa.
Hinterland Who’s Who. http://www.hww.ca
Leslie, Scott. 2006. Wetland Birds of North America. Key Porter Books, Toronto. NatureServe. InfoNatura. http://www.natureserve.org/infonatura/