32 Thick Billed Murre Facts: Adaptation, Egg, Dive, Habitat

thick billed murre_

The thick-billed murre, an avian behemoth of the cool seawater realms, stands as a testament to the wonders of nature’s diversity. This robust bird, akin to its close relative, the Common Murre, navigates the expansive ocean depths with a grace that belies its substantial size. Often, these two avian counterparts can be observed sharing the same nesting grounds, forming a picturesque scene on the rocky northern islands where their calls echo in harmonious tandem. However, it’s noteworthy that certain regions, particularly the thick-extinct north, boast concentrations of these magnificent creatures that defy expectations.

Thick Billed Murre Facts: Adaptation, Egg, Dive, Habitat, More

In the complex tapestry of avian existence, the interwoven lives of the Common Murre and the thick-billed murre present a captivating narrative. Their shared habitats, especially the rocky confines of northern islands, witness a curious dance of cohabitation. The air resonates with their calls, creating a symphony of avian melodies that embellish the coastal landscape. Surprisingly, despite their similarities, the intricate details of their behaviors and interactions add layers of complexity to their coexistence, offering a fascinating glimpse into the delicate balance of nature.

1. The Northern Stronghold: Abundance Amidst Adversity

Venturing into the heart of the narrative, one discovers the enigmatic allure of the thick-extinct north, a stronghold of abundance for the thick-billed murre. Here, against the backdrop of challenging conditions, these majestic birds find refuge and resilience. The rocky landscapes of this region, once considered inhospitable, now stand witness to the thriving avian populations that have adapted to the harsh realities of their surroundings. The very notion of a ‘thick-extinct’ environment takes on a paradoxical hue, for in its supposed desolation, a vibrant avian community flourishes.

2. The Echo of Collapse: Navigating Adversity with Resilience

While acknowledging the recent collapse, the thick-billed murre emerges as a symbol of resilience in the face of environmental challenges. The ebb and flow of their populations, particularly in the Eastern Canadian Arctic, reveal a dynamic struggle for survival. It is within this struggle that the heartening revelation unfolds – a population poised to rebound, defying the ominous shadows of collapse. The numbers, now on the upswing, whisper tales of adaptation and perseverance in a world marked by ecological uncertainties.

3. Thick-Billed Murre: A Fascinating Avian Marvel

The enigmatic and captivating thick-billed murre, scientifically known as Uria lomvia, stands as a distinguished member of the Auk family, classified under the taxonomic umbrella of Alcidae. This avian marvel draws its nomenclature from the eminent Danish zoologist Morten Thren Brannich, a tribute to his significant contributions to the field of zoology. In the intricate tapestry of biodiversity, the thick-billed murre unfolds its wings prominently in the North Pacific, where a particular subspecies, Uria lomvia aura, assumes the epithet “Moor of Palace” owing to its distinctive characteristics.

4. Head Color and Plumage of the Thick-Billed Murre in Bridnich’s Gillette

The head color of the thick-billed murre stands as a beacon of uniformity, steadfastly maintaining its presence throughout the bridging plumage that envelops the avian inhabitants of Bridnich’s Gillette. This distinctive characteristic serves as a testament to the avian elegance found within this specific locale, where nature’s brush strokes create a tapestry of visual allure. The enigmatic allure of this plumage extends beyond mere aesthetics, embodying the essence of avian life within this unique ecosystem.

5. Survival Amidst Extinction: The Thick-Billed Murre and the Great Auk’s Demise

In the turbulent narrative of the mid-nineteenth century, the avian kingdom witnessed the tragic extinction of the majestic Great Auk. From the ashes of this loss, the thick-billed murre emerged as the largest surviving member of the Alcidi, the avian family to which it belongs. The parallel existence of the thick-billed murre and its close kin, the common guillemot (or common murre, ULZ), serves as a poignant reminder of the intricate dance of survival in the natural world. Despite sharing size dimensions, the thick-billed murre proudly asserts its dominance, both in average and maximum size, over its avian counterparts.

6. Dimensions of Elegance: The Thick-Billed Murre’s Physical Attributes

Measured in meticulous detail, the thick-billed murre’s physical dimensions unveil a spectacle of avian elegance. With a total length ranging from 40 to 48 cm (16 to 19 inches) and a wingspan extending between 64 and 81 cm (25 to 32 inches), these creatures embody a harmonious balance of proportions. The weight, a testament to their robust nature, oscillates between 736 and 1,481 g (26.0 to 52.2 oz). Notably, the Pacific denizens surpass their Atlantic counterparts, a nuance that becomes particularly evident in the bill’s imposing stature.

7. Adorned in Black and White: The Adult Plumage of the Thick-Billed Murre

Adulthood bestows upon the thick-billed murre a regal attire, characterized by ebony plumage contrasted with pristine white underparts on the head, neck, back, and wings. A strikingly elongated and pointed bill becomes a prominent feature, signifying both elegance and practicality in the avian realm. The small, round black tail serves as a punctuation mark to this avian ensemble. The winter transformation adds a touch of ethereal beauty as the lower face transitions to a resplendent white. Amidst this visual symphony, a deliberate silence is maintained over the ocean, a testament to the nuanced communication strategies of this species.

8. Morphological Marvels: Distinguishing Features of the Thick-Billed Murre

Intricacies abound in the morphological distinctions that set the thick-billed murre apart. Notably, their dense, short bills stand in stark contrast to their avian counterparts. A unique variant, aptly termed the “bridesmaid,” introduces a white eye stripe, a white bill stripe, or a captivating combination of both. This intriguing twist in morphology unfolds as a spectacle, particularly in North Atlantic colonies where both species of guillemots breed. The purpose of such distinctive traits unveils a potential function—enabling individual birds to discern conspecifics in densely packed breeding colonies.

9. Winter’s Veil: Metamorphosis of the Thick-Billed Murre’s Appearance

As winter’s chill descends, the thick-billed murre undergoes a subtle transformation. The bill, once adorned with a generous dose of white, reveals a more muted palette at the mouth. Flight dynamics also shift, creating an illusion of shorter wings—a visual spectacle that captivates observers. Noteworthy is the age-dependent variation, with first-year birds showcasing smaller bills, their white lines often blurred. This subtle distinction serves as a visual chronicle, allowing keen observers to discern the age of these majestic creatures.

10. Breeding Habits of Thick-Billed Murres

Thick-billed murres, those formidable avian predators, exhibit intriguing breeding habits that set them apart in the avian realm. These birds, in colossal colonies often surpassing a million breeding individuals, adopt a distinctive arrangement facing the water at the narrow termini of cliffs. Remarkably, their nesting requirement is meager, demanding less than a square foot per bird—an efficient utilization of space contributing to their prolific numbers in the Northern Hemisphere.

The breeding prowess of these avian predators is encapsulated in the meager production of a solitary egg per pair annually. Astonishingly, despite this seemingly modest reproductive output, thick-billed murres have asserted their dominance as one of the most populous marine birds in the Northern Hemisphere. Their breeding colonies, teeming with life, are a testament to the adaptability and resilience of this avian species.

11. Communal Dynamics during Reproduction

During the early stages of their reproductive cycle, adult thick-billed murres engage in a unique form of communalism, shunning the conventional nesting approach. Instead of crafting nests, these avian parents deposit their eggs directly onto vacant stones, forging a bond with the rugged landscape that mirrors their resilience. Both parents actively participate in the incubation and rearing of their offspring, exemplifying a shared responsibility crucial for the survival of their lineage.

Intriguingly, the energetic demands associated with flight restrict adults to providing only one meal at a time for their young. The intricacies of this communal effort underscore the delicate balance between the birds’ survival instincts and their dedication to nurturing the next generation.

12. Mountainous Sojourns and Maritime Ventures

Embarking on an adventurous journey, young thick-billed murres spend a substantial 18 to 25 days scaling mountainous heights before their bold descent to the open sea. Their departure, a spectacle of synchronized anticipation, unfolds as they leap into the water under the cloak of nightfall. The transition from the mountainous abode to the vast expanse of the sea is a pivotal moment, with one of the parental figures shadowing closely, guiding the fledglings with precision.

The ensuing phase is approximately 8 weeks, during which the fledglings and their guardians share the vastness of the ocean. The adults, seasoned navigators of the marine realm, diligently provide sustenance for their progeny, nurturing them through the initial challenges of life at sea.

13. Survival Strategies and Nesting Dynamics

The survival saga of young thick-billed murres unfolds intricately, intricately entwined with the age and experience of the breeders within the colony. The offspring of novice couples exhibit a slower growth rate, a poignant reminder of the challenges faced by the inexperienced pairs. This disparity in growth is attributed to the relatively reduced nourishment these fledglings receive from their less adept parents.

Moreover, the hatch rate experiences a decline in colonies featuring at least one inexperienced breeding bird. Seasoned adults, with their accumulated wisdom, secure superior nesting sites at the heart of the colony. In contrast, inexperienced individuals find themselves relegated to the periphery, exposing their young to a higher risk of predation—a stark manifestation of the survival hierarchy within the thick-billed murre colonies.

14. The Symphony of Silence: Vocal Dynamics of the Thick-Billed Murre

Amidst the breeding colonies, the thick-billed murre unveils its vocal prowess, producing an array of rigid cackling calls that echo through the avian amphitheater. Yet, as these creatures venture into the vast expanse of the ocean, a deliberate silence prevails. This enigmatic dichotomy in vocalization speaks volumes about the nuanced communication strategies adopted by the thick-billed murre, unraveling a layer of mystery in their oceanic sojourns.

thick billed murre

15. Etymology Unveiled: A Linguistic Journey Through Names

Delving into the etymological nuances of its nomenclature, the genus name “Uria” traces its roots back to the ancient Greek term “Ourea,” as elucidated by the venerable Athenaeus. A linguistic mosaic, “Lomvia,” finds its origin in the Swedish lexicon, where it eloquently translates to the evocative meanings of auk or diver.

Meanwhile, the English moniker “Guillemot” echoes through the corridors of time, resonating with its French counterpart “Guillemot,” believed to have derived from the name “Gilliam,” itself an evolution from the venerable “William.” The ambiguous origins of “Murray” add an element of intrigue to the mix, its potential link to the mimicry of General Guillemot’s call serving as an enigmatic clue.

16. In the Skies: The Aerial Prowess of Moor of Palace

Navigating the expansive realms of the avian kingdom, the thick-billed murre, particularly the North Pacific subspecies, emerges as a testament to the marvels of flight. It not only bears the distinguished title of having the highest flight costs but does so with unparalleled grace and efficiency. This avian maestro’s flight expenditures transcend the boundaries of conventional expectations, establishing a record for any creature relative to its body size. The intricacies of aerodynamic mastery woven into the fabric of the murre’s existence elevate it to a celestial choreographer in the grand ballet of the avian skies.

17. Winter Migration and Habitat of the Thick-Billed Murre

In the unforgiving grip of winter, the thick-billed murre embarks on a remarkable journey, venturing to the icy realms of the South Atlantic and the northern part of the Pacific. The avian wanderer, however, seeks refuge only in waters that defy the clutches of ice, a testament to the strategic prowess of these remarkable birds.

18. Aerial Prowess and Unique Flight Patterns

The thick-billed murre exhibits a twisted flight, an aerial ballet that is both robust and straight. With short wings tirelessly beating in a quickened rhythm, these birds masterfully dip into the air currents, utilizing their wings not only for soaring through the skies but also for a distinctive aquatic purpose – swimming.

Their prowess as skilled divers is unparalleled, delving into ocean depths of up to 150 meters and gracefully navigating the underwater realm for durations of four minutes. Yet, these aerial acrobats showcase versatility, alternating between shallow, brief dives and extended submersion at depths ranging from 21 to 40 meters. Akin to a well-choreographed dance, their diving trajectory mimics a graceful flat ‘U’ when in pursuit of prey.

19. Epic Journeys and Limitations of Short Wings

Undeterred by the limitations posed by their diminutive wingspan, the thick-billed murre embarks on epic journeys to satiate its hunger. The quest for sustenance propels these birds across vast distances, with travel exceeding 100 kilometers as they venture far from their nesting grounds. Despite the apparent hindrance of short wings, the Moors maneuver the air with power and directness that defy the conventional norms, constituting a paradoxical spectacle of sustainable locomotion in the animal kingdom.

20. Enigmatic Diving Mechanisms and Physiological Marvels

The regularity with which these birds plunge into the depths of the ocean unveils a mysterious facet of their existence. The depth and duration of their dives, a feat shared by their auk counterparts, pose intriguing questions regarding the mechanisms that facilitate such underwater exploits. Astonishingly, the intricacies of their diving and the mechanisms deployed to prevent lung collapse remain shrouded in mystery.

A critical revelation emerges: auks, including the thick-billed murre, possess undisclosed strategies, potentially involving the temporary absorption of excess gases in the vascular structure of their bones. This absorbed essence, a life-sustaining reservoir, is meticulously released through a controlled erosion process, a physiological marvel that continues to perplex scientists and deepen our understanding of avian adaptation to the aquatic realm.

21. A Million Miracles: The Ascension of Eastern Canadian Arctic Populations

The Eastern Canadian Arctic, a theater of avian resurgence, witnesses the stirring ascent of the thick-billed murre population to the sublime figure of a few million. This staggering numerical renaissance stands testament to the intricate dance between nature and adaptation. The once precarious numbers now paint a hopeful portrait of recovery, a silent testament to the resilience embedded in the essence of this mighty bird. As the winds carry the echoes of their calls across the vast Arctic expanse, the thick-billed murre claims its place as a magnificent denizen of the northern realms, a creature that defies both expectation and adversity.

22. Geographical Distribution of Thick-Billed Murres

In the expansive and frigid expanses of the polar and sub-polar regions of the Northern Hemisphere, the thick-billed murres, avian denizens of these icy realms, manifest their existence through four distinct subspecies. The first, designated Uria lomvia lomvia, finds its habitat in the North American Atlantic and Arctic Oceans. On the other side of the continent, along the Pacific coast of North America, thrives the second subspecies, identified as Uria lomvia arra. The remaining two subspecies, Euleniore and Uria checkeri, carve out their domains in the enigmatic vastness of the Russian Arctic.

23. Ecological Habits of Thick-Billed Murres

These hardy creatures, these thick-billed killers, immerse themselves in the bracing cold of seawater for the entirety of their lives, sustaining an existence that rarely sees temperatures rise above 8 degrees Celsius. Yet, there exists a notable exception to this perpetual aquatic sojourn—the breeding season.

During this brief but intense period, these seabirds congregate in densely packed colonies, carving out niches amidst the towering cliffs that punctuate the coastal landscapes. The symphony of life that reverberates through these colonies achieves its crescendo in the climax of the ocean, an awe-inspiring spectacle of nature’s tenacity.

24. Colonization Strategies in the Arctic

The strategic colonization patterns of thick-billed murres weave a tale of adaptability and resilience. They exhibit a penchant for the chilliest of seawaters, gravitating towards the Arctic’s icy embrace. When not ensconced in the delicate art of nesting, these avian navigators venture far from terra firma, often soaring above the abyssal depths of the open ocean.

The vastness of the Arctic becomes their canvas, where they might affix themselves to the jagged edge of floating ice or find refuge in the cracks and crevices that define this frozen expanse. Their nests, masterpieces of avian architecture, perch proudly on the rocky shores or isolated islands, surrounded by the daunting majesty of cliffs.

25. Thick-Billed Murre’s Eclectic Diet

The Thick-billed Murre, a fascinating marine avian species, exhibits a dietary proclivity dominated by an extensive array of fish. During the summer months, its sustenance primarily revolves around fish consumption, with particular emphasis on nourishing the younger members of its community. In this seasonal feast, young Murres find themselves almost exclusively sustained by the ocean’s piscine bounty. However, as winter unfolds, a subtle shift in dietary preferences occurs, incorporating a more diverse array that extends beyond finned denizens to include crustaceans.

The piscatorial menu reads like a maritime epic, featuring cod, herring, capelin, sand lance, scalpin, and an assortment of other piscine inhabitants. Among the crustacean delicacies devoured are shrimp, amphipods, mysids, and copepods, enriching the Murres’ culinary palette. Not to be overlooked are the occasional marine worms and the cephalopod treat of squid that find their way into the Murres’ diet.

26. Mature Breeding Behavior and Colonial Abode

Entering the realm of reproduction, the Thick-Billed Murre unveils a remarkably mature breeding behavior, typically initiating the process when individuals surpass the three-year mark. These avian denizens choose to establish their familial domains within colonies, and some of these gatherings reach staggering proportions, attesting to the sociable nature of these creatures. Intriguingly, certain joint behaviors among the Murres may commence before they even arrive at the colony, emphasizing the nuanced social intricacies within their avian society. At the chosen nest site, a pair of Murres engage in a ritualistic bonding, gripping onto each other’s bills in a display of avian affection.

Stones, meticulously selected from the surrounding environment, serve as tokens of courtship, exchanged between mates in a gesture of profound significance. Nestled on the precipitous cliffsides, the Murres’ nesting preferences differ; the Common Murre opts for a more streamlined and abbreviated tail compared to its counterpart, the Thick-Billed Murre. It’s noteworthy that these birds, unlike many of their avian counterparts, forego the conventional nest structure, opting instead to place their eggs directly on the bare stones of their chosen perch.

27. Maturation and Nesting Site Dynamics

A testament to the complexity of their life cycle, Thick-Billed Murres exhibit a certain level of maturity before embarking on the journey of reproduction. It is only after crossing the threshold of three years that these avians embark on their inaugural breeding endeavors. Their chosen nesting grounds, typically perched on cliff faces, underscore their affinity for vertiginous habitats. Interestingly, joint behaviors may already be established before the Murres arrive at their colony, highlighting the depth of their social connections.

At the nest site, the pair engages in a captivating display of mutual dependence, interlocking bills as a symbol of their bond. The presentation of stones to one another further underscores the intricate rituals involved in avian courtship. The absence of a conventional nest is a distinctive feature of Murre’s reproductive habits; instead, the eggs repose directly on the unadorned stones, an eloquent manifestation of the Murres’ adaptation to their cliffside dwelling.

28. Environmental Nurturing Grounds

These rocky shores and precipitous islands, where the thick-billed murres orchestrate their family sagas, offer a glimpse into the carefully chosen realms of their parenthood. The nests, nestled among the crags, become havens for the continuation of their lineage. Here, in this harsh yet majestic environment, life thrives against the odds. The avian architects, in their wisdom, have selected grounds where the elements themselves become the guardians of the avian progeny, a testament to the resilience and adaptability etched into the very fabric of their existence.

29. Egg

The thick-billed murre, a seabird of the Arctic, lays a singular egg, showcasing a remarkable diversity in colors—varying from pristine white to hues of tan, blue, or even green, adorned with intricate brown and black markings. The incubation period, labor shared diligently by both male and female, spans an enduring 30 to 35 days, during which at least one parent is almost perpetually entrenched in the delicate nesting cycle. The dedication continues post-hatching, as both parents contribute tirelessly to the nourishment of their offspring.

In an extraordinary display of commitment, these avian caretakers traverse considerable distances, covering many miles on foot, to reach the bustling colonies. The fledglings, endowed with independence between 15 to 30 days, make their inaugural journey to the sea, accompanied by a vigilant adult male. The transition to adulthood is not abrupt; rather, these juvenile birds receive vigilant care for several weeks after venturing beyond the nest, illustrating a profound family bond.

30. Juvenile

The nurturing ethos persists as both parental figures remain actively involved in feeding the fledgling thick-billed murres. The arduous journeys to the colonies become a shared responsibility, emphasizing the communal aspects of their upbringing. The fledgling granted the autonomy to explore the world between 15 to 30 days of age, embarks on its maiden voyage to the sea under the watchful guidance of an experienced adult male. Even after this initial foray into independence, the young murres continue to be tenderly attended to for an extended period, fostering a gradual transition to self-sufficiency.

31. Status and Conservation

Despite a noticeable decline in their habitat range, the thick-billed murre does not currently hold the ominous designation of a species of concern. The global population, estimated between 15 and 20 million, remains relatively stable. However, recent decades have witnessed a disconcerting 20% to 50% reduction in several significant colonies, warranting attention. Threats loom on multiple fronts; locals in Arctic regions harvest both eggs and adults for sustenance. The specter of mass casualties due to entanglement in fishing nets, the ever-present risk of oil spills, and the pervasive impacts of climate change pose formidable challenges.

The diminution in population is evident, with some regions experiencing a decline between 3 and 7. Greenland, particularly susceptible, grapples with the dual threats of egg collection and the endangerment of adult birds. The Barents Sea region, influenced by polar activities in Russia, witnesses localized declines. Fisheries, although a potential threat, is mitigated by the species’ adaptability to alternative food sources, owing to their well-adapted bills. Oil pollution emerges as a significant peril, with murres standing out as highly susceptible marine entities. Accidental mortality resulting from fishing gear compounds the multifaceted challenges contributing to the population decline. Bird accessories on Amazon

32. Climate Change and Adaptability

The thick-billed murre’s year-round association with sea ice ties its fate intricately to climate patterns. Scientists postulate that climate change could pose a looming threat to this Arctic-bred species. Paradoxically, their adaptability surfaces as a glimmer of hope amid environmental turbulence. With the transformation of ice into open waters, murres in the southern expanse of their range pivot from consuming ice-related Arctic cod to warmer-water capelins.

The chronological rhythm of egg-laying adjusts in tandem with the changing ice dynamics. Yet, this adaptability has its limits; in exceptionally warm years, the convergence of mosquitoes and excessive heat inflicts mortality on some breeding individuals, underscoring the intricate dance between the murres and their ever-evolving environment.

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