Alberta, Canada
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Ancient Murrelet
Synthliboramphus antiquus
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General Description

By Gustave J. Yaki

The Ancient Murrelet, similar in size and shape to the Marbled/Long-billed Murrelet, breeds along the Pacific coast of northeastern Asia and in northwestern North America, primarily in the Aleutian Islands of Alaska and the Queen Charlotte Islands of British Columbia. It is a rare accidental visitor to Alberta. Five records are known, but some of the sight records might have actually been Long-billed Murrelets.

All Alberta records during the autumn. An adult male (specimen) was found at Edmonton on 25 October 1975. One was observed on the Glenmore Reservoir, Calgary from 17-20 October 1982. A bird was seen at Beaverhills Lake on 2 October 1983 and another at Cold Lake on 18 September 1988. A dead bird was found at Edson on 29 September 1994.

Ancient Murrelets feed on planktonic crustaceans during early stages of breeding, but later utilize fish.

They nest in large colonies, on coastal islands, in burrows or crevices, beneath stones or roots. Two eggs are laid, incubated for 33-36+ days by both sexes. Patchy food distribution requires long feeding periods which lead to long (up to 72 hour) incubation shifts, exchanged only at night. Sometimes no incubation takes place for 1-3 days by the feeding adults, which leads to longer incubation periods. The young are extremely precocial. Within a day or two of hatching, the adults lead the young, under cover of darkness, a few metres downslope towards the shore and then fly off to the sea. Now alone, the chick has to overcome obstacles to reach the surf below. Probably guided by the adults call, the reunited adults and chicks immediately move well off shore.

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Where to find Ancient Murrelets in Alberta   

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