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Murrelet ID

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  • George Matz
    Thanks Aaron for the informative report and for organizing this trip. On the trip separating Marbled Murrelets from Kittlitz s was primarily based on plumage
    Message 1 of 2 , Aug 1, 2011
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      Thanks Aaron for the informative report and for organizing this trip.

      On the trip separating Marbled Murrelets from Kittlitz's was primarily based on plumage color. While conditions were ideal for that kind of determination, I wasn't convinced that this is all that reliable; particularly when conditions are more typical of a marine environment and all you see are silhouettes. So when I got home, I checked with Birds of North America Online. But it essentially takes the same approach.

      "Kittlitz's Murrelet in Alternate plumage further distinguished by grayish upperparts spotted or streaked with buff and tawny, and by overall pale appearance."

      What I did notice on the trip is that the Marbled Murrelet has a head posture that to me was distinctly different than the Kittlitz's, which should be apparent even in poor light conditions. Beside having a longer bill, it's head is tilted up, like a Yellow-billed Loon. In fact the picture in BNA (attached) illustrates this perfectly. The Kittlit's, beside being a little more hunched over, held their bill more level.

      Although the distinction in head posture doesn't seem to be emphasized much by the literature, I'm wondering if this needs more recognition, especially now that there might be more birders coming to Homer to see not only the Long-billed but also four species of murrelets (also Marbled, Kittlitz, and Ancient). Where else can one expect to see four species of murrelets in one day?

      Any comments?

      George


      ----- Original Message -----
      From: Aaron Lang
      To: AK Birding
      Sent: Saturday, July 30, 2011 10:10 AM
      Subject: [AK Birding] Murrelet Search in Kachemak Bay



      Yesterday (7/29) Karl Stoltzfus of Bay Excursions in Homer hosted a field
      trip to try and relocate at least one of the three Long-billed Murrelets
      found last Saturday on USFWS murrelet surveys in Kachemak Bay. Thirteen of
      us spent the morning searching under excellent conditions, but did not find
      any Long-billed Murrelets. We did pick through an impressive concentration
      of birds. While we didn't conduct any kind of systematic count, a very
      conservative estimate would be 400-500 brachyramphus murrelets, at least 100
      of which were KITTLITZ'S in the near-shore area between Glacier Spit and
      Aurora Lagoon. On several occasions 50+ were in view at a time. There seemed
      to be many more murrelets out there than the birds we were able to study.

      We also turned up three WANDERING TATTLERS (harbor), PIGEON GUILLEMOT,
      COMMON MURRE, three ANCIENT MURRELETS, one THICK-BILLED MURRE (which is very
      rare in KBay), four ARCTIC TERNS, one ALEUTIAN TERN and one FORK-TAILED
      STORM-PETREL. There were two CLIFF SWALLOWS still lingering in the harbor.
      It was a great morning of murrelet study and comparison. As far as the
      Long-billed goes, with all the murrelets around and all the food in the
      water I don't see any reason why there couldn't still be at least one
      around. Hope to get out for another try soon!

      Aaron Lang
      Homer

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