Photo: Thomas Kallmeyer

Priority Bird

Kittlitz's Murrelet

Brachyramphus brevirostris

A compact little seabird of Alaskan waters. Closely related to Marbled Murrelet and, like that species, rather mysterious and poorly known. Much more limited in range, being common mainly from Kodiak Island east to Glacier Bay. Solitary in its nesting; only a few nests have been found, so its breeding behavior is not well known.
Conservation status Total population is limited. Its rugged and remote range protects it from most direct human impacts, but climate change may be a serious threat: it often feeds near glaciers that come down to the sea, and those glaciers are receding. Would be vulnerable to spills and other pollution in coastal waters.
Family Auks, Murres, Puffins
Habitat Ocean, glacier waters; nests on barren slopes in coastal mountains. Found on cold sea waters, mostly in calm, protected bays and among islands. Usually fairly close to shore. Nests on islands and mainland, on steep barren mountainsides, talus slopes, rock slides, sometimes near glaciers.
A compact little seabird of Alaskan waters. Closely related to Marbled Murrelet and, like that species, rather mysterious and poorly known. Much more limited in range, being common mainly from Kodiak Island east to Glacier Bay. Solitary in its nesting; only a few nests have been found, so its breeding behavior is not well known.
Photo Gallery
  • adult, breeding
  • adult, nonbreeding
  • adult, breeding
Feeding Behavior

Forages while swimming underwater. Does most feeding in cold waters fairly close to shore, probably where relatively shallow.


Eggs

One. Pale olive with brown and gray spots. Incubation probably by both sexes, but details (including length of incubation period) unknown. Young: Probably fed at nest site by parent(s) for at least 2-3 weeks. Some young then may travel along streams and rivers to reach sea, probably before old enough to fly strongly; others may fly directly from nest to ocean.


Young

Probably fed at nest site by parent(s) for at least 2-3 weeks. Some young then may travel along streams and rivers to reach sea, probably before old enough to fly strongly; others may fly directly from nest to ocean.

Diet

Not well known. Has a shorter bill than that of Marbled Murrelet, suggesting a different diet; known to eat small crustaceans, and possibly eats fewer fish than Marbled Murrelet.


Nesting

Solitary in breeding, on islands and mainland; few details known. Nest site is on ground on steep rocky slope with little vegetation, often 1000-3000' above sea level and several miles inland from ocean (can be more than 45 miles inland). Often at base of large rock, and may be fairly near stream flowing toward ocean. No nest built, egg laid on bare rock or ground.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
Learn more about these drawings.

Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Migration

Mostly permanent resident, although must leave northernmost breeding areas in western Alaska in winter (when seas freeze solid). Extremely rare straggler south of southeastern Alaska.

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Migration

Mostly permanent resident, although must leave northernmost breeding areas in western Alaska in winter (when seas freeze solid). Extremely rare straggler south of southeastern Alaska.

Songs and Calls
Low-pitched groaning call.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
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How climate change could affect this bird's range

In the broadest and most detailed study of its kind, Audubon scientists have used hundreds of thousands of citizen-science observations and sophisticated climate models to predict how birds in the U.S. and Canada will react to climate change.

Learn more

Read more: climate.audubon.org
Auks, Murres, Puffins Upright-perching Water Birds

Kittlitz's Murrelet

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season.

More on reading these maps.

Each map is a visual guide to where a particular bird species may find the climate conditions it needs to survive in the future. We call this the bird’s “climatic range.”

The colors indicate the season in which the bird may find suitable conditions— blue for winter, yellow for summer (breeding), and green for where they overlap (indicating their presence year-round).

The darker the shaded area, the more likely it is the bird species will find suitable climate conditions to survive there.

The outline of the approximate current range for each season remains fixed in each frame, allowing you to compare how the range will expand, contract, or shift in the future.

The first frame of the animation shows where the bird can find a suitable climate today (based on data from 2000). The next three frames predict where this bird’s suitable climate may shift in the future—one frame each for 2020, 2050, and 2080.

You can play or pause the animation with the orange button in the lower left, or select an individual frame to study by clicking on its year.

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season. More on reading these maps.
Winter
Summer

Winter Range
Summer Range
Both Seasons
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