- ORDER: Charadriiformes
- FAMILY: Alcidae
Common Murres are dapper, black-and-white seabirds that nest in raucous throngs on crowded sea cliffs. Often described as "flying penguins," they have a tuxedoed look but are actually relatives of auks and puffins. Their slender wings do double duty—allowing them to fly long distances to forage, and then working like flippers as the birds swim down 100 feet or so to catch fish. These hardy birds are at home on the open ocean, and rarely come to land except when nesting.More ID Info
Find This Bird
Murres are birds of northern ocean waters. Watch for them from shore (use a spotting scope for best results) or while out on a birding pelagic, whale watching trip, or other ocean excursion. They're present all year along the West Coast; mainly in winter in the East as far south as New Jersey. A nesting cliff is a fantastic sight to behold, and well worth the travel. Nesting sites are fairly widespread along the Pacific coast; in the Atlantic you'll need to visit Maine or Canada (or Europe).
- Arao común (Spanish)
- Guillemot marmette (French)
- Cool Facts
- Common Murres are skilled fishers, but how do they hold their slippery catch? They use their long, slender, sharp-edged tongues to press the slippery fish against sharp nubs ("denticles") in the roof of the mouth until they can swallow it.
- In breeding plumage, most Common Murres have all-brown faces. But in the Atlantic, some populations include “bridled” individuals, which have a white eyering and a white line extending backward from the eyes. Bridled birds are more common farther north.
- Common Murre eggs can be many different colors and have variable patterns of spots and blotches. All this variation may allow parents to recognize their own egg when they return to their crowded cliff ledges.
- The shape of a murre egg is distinctive: narrow, almost pointed at one end, very broad and round at the other. If nudged accidentally, these eggs roll in a neat circle around the narrow end—making it less likely that they will roll off their cliff ledge.
- The oldest recorded Common Murre was at least 34 years, 8 months old, when it was found in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, in 2016. It had been banded in 1981 in the same location.