- ORDER: Charadriiformes
- FAMILY: Alcidae
The tuxedo-clad Thick-billed Murre nests in vast colonies on sea cliffs in the Arctic. Though it can be mistaken at first glance for a penguin, this seabird is a capable flier and doesn't occur anywhere near the Southern Hemisphere. Thick-billed Murres are long lived and often pair for life, commuting long distances to bring back one fish at a time for their single chick. They spend most of the year far out at sea, diving deeply in cold northern waters, sometimes resting on ice floes.More ID Info
Find This Bird
A bustling colony of Thick-billed Murres is a thrilling sight—Alaska, Newfoundland, and Iceland are good places to take such a trip. In winter, pelagic (ocean-going) birding trips in New York or New England waters may turn up Thick-billed Murres. They sometimes show up close to shore in places such as Cape Cod, Massachusetts, or Campobello Island, on the Maine–New Brunswick border. A spotting scope is useful to identify them from land, as they look very similar to Common Murres and Razorbills from a distance.
- Arao de Brünnich (Spanish)
- Guillemot de Brünnich (French)
- Cool Facts
- Thick-billed Murres pack in tightly along the narrow ledges of their nesting cliffs. Often breeding shoulder to shoulder, they may hold the world record among birds for needing the least "personal space."
- Young Thick-billed Murres leave the nest cliff while still flightless and only about a fourth the size of an adult. Encouraged by their father, they take a seemingly death-defying leap off their nest ledge and use their tiny, undeveloped wings to glide and flutter downward. The father then catches up to the chick and helps it learn how and where to forage.
- Thick-billed Murres are among the deepest underwater divers of all birds, regularly descending to depths of more than 100 meters, and occasionally below 200 meters (656 feet). They can dive for more than 3 minutes.
- The Thick-billed Murre's nest is a rough pile of pebbles or other debris, often cemented in place by the birds' poop. The resulting structure may help to keep the egg from rolling off ledge if it is dislodged.
- The Thick-billed Murre does not breed until about the age of 4 years. Year-old birds remain at sea and don't visit nesting areas at all. Two-year-olds often fly in flocks in circles above the colony, sometimes dropping down to touch ground briefly. At 3 years of age and older, they gather at the very top of the nest cliff and socialize with others of their age, preening and sometimes mating.
- Thick-billed Murres are birds of the sea, but they used to turn up occasionally in large flocks far inland—along the St. Lawrence and Ottawa Rivers, and on the Great Lakes. These irruptions were very pronounced in several winters around the turn of the 20th century as well as in 1907–1909, 1925–1927, and 1950–1953—but there have been no such irruptions since.
- In Europe, the Thick-billed Murre is called Brünnich’s Guillemot. It was named for Danish natural historian Morten Thrane Brünnich.
- The oldest recorded Thick-billed Murre was at least 28 years, 8 months old when it was found in eastern Canada in 2009. It had been banded in Nunavut in 1982.