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Common Murre

Common Murre
(Uria aalge)
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Range
From Bering Sea south to mid-California. Very gregarious, flocks of thousands can be seen in Resurrection Bay


Predators
Bald eagles, gulls, ravens, foxes, humans


Prey
Cod, sandlance, capelin, herring, and invertebrates


Size
Length: 17 inches
Wingspan: 28 inches
Weight: 2.2lbs


Life Span
15-20 years


Reproduction
Murres generally reach sexual maturity at 4-6 years old. They form monogamous pairs and arrive at crowded nest sites on rocky ledges in March - April. A nest is built using sparse materials such as pebbles or strands of grass and this is where the female lays one large egg. Both the male and female take turns caring for the egg during the 30 day incubation period and after it hatches take turns brooding the chick. At about 3 weeks old and still unable to fly the chick jumps from the nest and makes its way to the sea. By making vocal calls the chick is reunited with a parent (usually the father) and they spend the next 3-4 weeks together on the water where the chick learns to fly and the adult teaches it to catch fish.


Seasonal Change
Monomorphic.  In summer they have dark backs, wings, and head, white breasts and white on the trailing edge of wings.  Appearance changes slightly in winter with white throats, cheeks, with dark mark running from each eye back over white cheek.


Morphology and Function
Auks, including the common murres, have very small wings relative to their weights because of the demands of underwater swimming. For the same reason they also have relatively narrow wings, which means that when flying they are dependant on constant flapping to remain aloft, unlike other birds which can soar.  The egg is very pear shaped.  Since there is very little, if any, nesting material present around the egg, the shape prevents the egg from rolling off of the ledge, instead it just moves in a large circle. 


Other Facts
The common murre is the best of the alcid divers and can dive up to 600 feet to fish.  Unlike the puffins that carry multiple fish at a time the murres carry a captured single fish lengthwise, parallel to bill.

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