Photo: Aaron Budgor/Flickr Creative Commons

Scripps's Murrelet

Synthliboramphus scrippsi

Most members of the auk family favor cold northern waters, but this one is found mostly off Baja and southern California. It nests on offshore islands, and is almost never seen from the mainland. Generally uncommon, it occurs at sea in pairs or family groups, not in flocks. Young Scripps’s Murrelets get an early start on their sea-going life, leaving their nest only one or two days after hatching, often having to jump more than 200 feet down from cliffs into the surf before swimming away with their parents. Formerly known as Xantus’s Murrelet. 
Conservation status Total population probably low. Vulnerable to predators, even small ones, on nesting islands; in one study, almost half of all eggs were destroyed by deer mice. Accidental introduction of rats could devastate colonies.
Family Auks, Murres, Puffins
Habitat Ocean, islands. Generally in relatively warm waters and well offshore. May be close to nesting islands but almost never close to mainland; may go far out beyond continental shelf. Nests on islands with steep cliffs, rocky slopes, dense cover of bushes.
Most members of the auk family favor cold northern waters, but this one is found mostly off Baja and southern California. It nests on offshore islands, and is almost never seen from the mainland. Generally uncommon, it occurs at sea in pairs or family groups, not in flocks. Young Scripps’s Murrelets get an early start on their sea-going life, leaving their nest only one or two days after hatching, often having to jump more than 200 feet down from cliffs into the surf before swimming away with their parents. Formerly known as Xantus’s Murrelet. 
Photo Gallery
Feeding Behavior

Forages by diving and swimming underwater, propelled by wings. Pairs or family groups may forage together.


Eggs

2, rarely 1. Large for size of bird, pale blue to dull green, with few or many brown spots, sometimes solid brown. Incubation is by both sexes, 27-44 days.


Young

Parents do not feed young in nest. 1-2 nights after hatching, downy young are led from nest by parents, who then fly away; young make way to water, often jumping from cliffs more than 200’ down to surf. Parents and young reunite in water and swim away from island. Young remain with parents and are fed by them for lengthy period. 1 brood per year, but may lay a 2nd clutch if first clutch is lost.

Diet

Poorly known. Probably eats mostly small crustaceans and other marine invertebrates. Thought not to be much of a fish eater.


Nesting

Breeds on islands in small colonies. Birds typically have same mate and same nest site each year. Nest site is in rock crevice, under dense bush, under debris, or in abandoned burrow of other species; no nest built

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Migration

. A few are present off southern California all year, but common mainly March through June. Numbers drop sharply in mid-summer, with many of these birds evidently going north (at least to central California). Whereabouts in winter poorly known. Probably does much of migration by swimming, not flying.

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Migration

. A few are present off southern California all year, but common mainly March through June. Numbers drop sharply in mid-summer, with many of these birds evidently going north (at least to central California). Whereabouts in winter poorly known. Probably does much of migration by swimming, not flying.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls

Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
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