Ancient Murrelet Facts

Ancient murrelet facts are interesting.

Ancient murrelets, of order Charadriiformes, family Alcidae, and genus Synthliboramphus, are old-world small seabirds of the alcids or the auks. This bird has two subspecies under them that inhabit the seas of America, Asia, and Europe. This bird is the only species that covers the whole range of the North Pacific Ocean. They prefer cool continental ocean water over salty bays. This species is distributed in their habitat in such a way that plenty of food is available to them. The breeding range extends from North America to Japan. The largest nesting colony of this species is found in British Columbia. This bird abandons its breeding colony at night to avoid predation. At present, the murrelet population is not threatened due to the presence of a large number of breeding pairs and adult individuals throughout its range. However, these North American birds are under threat of predation by an invasive species.

To know more about these birds, continue reading these wonderful facts. For similar content, check out little auk and black-throated loon facts too.

Ancient Murrelet

Fact File

What do they prey on?

Small fish, shrimp, and crustaceans

What do they eat?


Average litter size?


How much do they weigh?

5.4-8.8 oz (153-250 g)

How long are they?

7.9-9.4 in (20-24 cm)

How tall are they?


What do they look like?

Black and white

Skin Type


What are their main threats?


What is their conservation status?

Least Concern

Where you'll find them

Oceans and shores


Europe, Asia, and North America





Scientific Name

Synthliboramphus antiquus





Ancient Murrelet Interesting Facts

What type of animal is an ancient murrelet?

Ancient murrelets are a type of small seabird.

What class of animal does an ancient murrelet belong to?

Ancient murrelets belong to the class Aves which is the common class for all birds.

How many ancient murrelets are there in the world?

The global population of these birds is estimated to lie between 1 to 2 million individuals. In terms of sheltering the breeding pairs or wintering population, Japan and Russia rank the highest. However, their population is greatly decreasing all over their range, especially in North America.

Where does an ancient murrelet live?

The ancient murrelet bird covers a large extent at sea and is distributed from Asia to North America. The breeding habitat of these birds starts from the islands of the Yellow Sea in China and extends to British Columbia in the United States through the Pacific coast of the Russian and Aleutian Islands. Most of the murrelet auks of the world reside in this area. These North American birds travel thousands of miles to the extreme east like in Japan and China to winter there. In North America, some bird species also fly south to California or to inland North America. A small population was also found in the Lundy island of England and in various British islands in the spring.

What is an ancient murrelet's habitat?

They are aquatic birds that nest offshore along the rocky sea coasts. Breeding takes place on islands containing dense vegetation. They nest under rocks, in crevices, or in burrows on the ground and the nest is guarded well by plant matters like leaves and branches. The foraging range of this bird mainly includes offshore water such as in straits and islands but sometimes can also extend inshore where food is concentrated. Similar behavior is observed while choosing their winter habitat.

Who do ancient murrelets live with?

The murrelet lives in loose colonies. They form nesting colonies in their breeding ground but these colonies are not densely packed. They also forage in flocks of birds. Seasonal movements from one place to another also occur in groups in this species. In their nests, they stay with their pair.

How long does an ancient murrelet live?

This murrelet does not have a long life. These birds can live a maximum of five years in the wild.

How do they reproduce?

Breeding in murrelets occurs in nest colonies in the north Pacific Ocean. These birds arrive at their nests a month before the laying season. The breeding season starts from mid-spring and continues to summer. They lay one to two eggs in a nest that is built by both the parents. They take the young birds to the sea for feeding. The young birds are fed in the sea by their parents for more than a month.

What is their conservation status?

The International Union for Conservation of Nature or the IUCN Red List has recognized the ancient murrelets as a species of Least Concern. Although their population is decreasing, they do not fall under the threshold of vulnerable species because the rate of decrease is very low. The bird has also been addressed by many conservation sites to retain their population.

Ancient Murrelet Fun Facts

What do ancient murrelets look like?

It is a small and slightly slender bird among their similar species. They have a black-colored throat and head with a tiny yellow bill and a gray back. The underparts of this bird are snowy white in color. The tail is small and round. Breeding adults have white streaks as crowns on their black head which makes them look old. Apart from that, their gray back also resembles a draping shawl. For this reason, they have the name ancient. The young or nonbreeding birds lack the white streaks.    

Ancient murrelets show nocturnal movements.

How cute are they?

These birds are small and have a round face that might appear extremely cute to people.

How do they communicate?

These birds communicate with each other by vocalizations. The young recognize their parents by their call and while in the se,a their call helps the young bird to locate its family and unite with them.  

How big is an ancient murrelet?

The length of the murrelet body ranges between 7.9-9.4 in (20-24 cm). They are smaller than most auks.

How fast can an ancient murrelet fly?

They are extremely fast fliers and cover the largest extent over sea among all the members of the auk family. They fly at an average speed of 1.2 mph (1.9 kph) while they travel.

How much does an ancient murrelet weigh?

A murrelet weighs between 5.4-8.8 oz (153-250 g).

What are their male and female names of the species?

There is no specific name for the male and female species. Both of them are called ancient murrelets.

What would you call a baby ancient murrelet?

A baby murrelet is referred to as a chick or nestling.

What do they eat?

This species of murrelets forage by swimming underwater like all other auks. Their wings act as propellers while swimming underwater in search of food. Their diet varies according to seasons. In winter, they strictly stick to eating crustaceans while in summer, they shift to small fish, shrimp, and crustaceans.

Are they dangerous?

They do not come in close proximity to humans. They are neither dangerous nor aggressive towards humans.

Would they make a good pet?

No, they are not a good choice as pets. In some places, it is illegal to keep them in captivity as a pet.

Did you know...

These bird migrates from one place to another in winter but unlike other species, they do not travel in search for different types of climate. It is believed that they return to their homeland in Asia during this time.

A relative to the ancient murrelet is the marbled murrelet which is currently an endangered species due to a decline in the distribution and abundance of their habitat.

How are ancient murrelets affected by climate change?

Scientists have concluded that climate change will decrease the availability of birds in the next decades. Their winter range might also shift further north. Since they can adapt to a large range of habitats, a climate change range shift is expected in the future.  

Why are ancient murrelets endangered?

This bird is recently facing a large number of threats among which predation by invasive mammals is the most dangerous for their population. Other threats like habitat loss and depletion in their food also act as reasons for the depletion of their numbers.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other birds including myna bird, or Argentine lake duck.

You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one on our duck color by number coloring pages.



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