IUCN threat status:

Near Threatened (NT)

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Biology

The rarity of Kittlitz's murrelet combined with its relatively inaccessible habitat has meant that little has been published on this bird's biology and ecology (4). In summer, it searches for food in bays and inlets (2), and around the outflows of glacial streams (4), feeding on sandeels, capelin, herring, smelt, and Pacific sandfish, as well as krill and shrimps (2). In winter, when large flocks of up to 500 Kittlitz's murrelets gather at areas where prey is abundant, it is thought to feed on tiny marine crustaceans and small fish (2), capturing its prey by diving into the ocean and propelling itself through the water with strong wing beats (6). Although Kittlitz's murrelet may feed at any time of the day or night, it is observed most frequently in the morning (6). Kittlitz's murrelet is the only species in the Alcidae family that nests on the ground, high up in mountains on barren scree slopes (2) (4). Thought to be monogamous, a pair of Kittlitz's murrelets will lay a single egg on a rock ledge, in a crevice, or on bare, gravelly ground (2). This generally takes place in May or June, with the exact timing depending on the location (2). After being incubated for probably around 30 days, the egg hatches and the helpless chick, barely able to stand (6), is delivered food by both of its parents for the next 24 days (2), before leaving for the ocean and learning to feed on its own (4). After breeding, and with the onset of winter, Kittlitz's murrelet leaves the more protected coastal waters and heads out into the open ocean (4).

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Source: ARKive

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