An Endangered Marbled Murrelet (Photo by Robin Corcoran)

Have you ever heard of the Marbled Murrelet? No? Well sit back and enjoy this quick little read about one of the endangered species native to the Salish Sea and Pacific Northwest!

The Marbled Murrelet is an endangered species of seabird. It is related to the puffin, and it has a stocky, pudgy body about 10 inches long. It has a short pointy beak with a short pointy tail to match. It’s a diving bird, propelling itself with its wings by “flying” into the sea depths to catch small schooling fish. During the winter when they are not in breeding season, they have a white underside and a black back, extending to the neck. The neck has some white that extends around its nape, and its face is black on the upper half. Breeding season takes place during the summer, and the individuals are more mottled brown, with darker brown backs and a marbled white and brown underside.

Although they winter at sea, this bird makes its nests in old growth forests along coastlines of the Pacific Northwest. These forests and trees can be hundreds of years old, and these trees are what the birds prefer to make their mossy nests in. Although they spend their days fishing and at sea, they can have nests 15 miles inland from coastlines that they return to each evening to feed their chicks. These trees may seem like strong and stable homes, but unfortunately, they’re being logged and cut down at somewhat alarming rates. This affects the birds, because their nests get destroyed, or they simply run out of places to nest. These birds are endangered because of habitat degradation, and they even are at risk for coastal oil spills and fishing nets. Though these birds were first discovered in the 1780’s, they were one of the last species in North America to have their nesting sites discovered. In the 1970’s, we finally located a nest, and we still are trying to study their behaviors in order to better assist in conserving them.

One of the reasons why the Salish Sea is so incredible is that it is one of the most ecologically diverse and species-rich areas in the world, and we still have so much to learn about it. This bird is a great example of a species that has been here for hundreds of years, but we still are studying it to know more about it. We still have so much to explore and learn, and it’s exciting to think about all the new answers we have yet to discover in the future!