The Ancient Murrelet is a small seabird that breeds along the coastal regions of the North Pacific. These birds are known for their unique features, such as their black and white plumage and their small, pointed bills. During the breeding season, they form large colonies on rocky cliffs, and both parents take part in the care of the chick.
The Ancient Murrelet is also known for its remarkable diving abilities, which enable it to forage on small fish and invertebrates beneath the water’s surface. While the Ancient Murrelet is not considered endangered, it faces some threats, such as habitat loss and oil spills, which can have a significant impact on their populations
The appearance of the Ancient Murrelet of Vietnam
The Ancient Murrelet is a small seabird in the auk family that measures about 20-25 cm in length and has a wingspan of around 35-40 cm. Its appearance is quite distinctive, with a blackish-brown upper body, white underparts, and a distinctive white eye-ring that contrasts sharply with its black cap.
During breeding season, the Ancient Murrelet develops a striking plume of feathers on the side of its head that gives it a somewhat “punk” appearance. Its wings are short and pointed, and it has a fairly large head in relation to its body size. In flight, the Ancient Murrelet appears somewhat clumsy, with rapid wingbeats and a generally erratic flight pattern. Its appearance is quite similar to other members of the murrelet family, but its unique eye-ring and head plumes make it easy to identify.
Habitat and Distribution of the Ancient Murrelet
The Ancient Murrelet is found in the North Pacific Ocean and is considered a seabird. It breeds in the northern areas of Japan, Kamchatka, the Aleutian Islands, western Alaska, and Vietnam. During the breeding season, these birds prefer to nest in old-growth forest areas with rocky outcrops, crevices, or burrows to protect their young from predators.
After breeding, the birds migrate to wintering grounds in the ocean, mainly the coasts of Japan, China, and the western United States. Along the coasts, they tend to stay in areas where the water is relatively shallow, and food is plentiful. They also prefer areas with rocky islands and bays where they can rest and protect themselves from rough ocean waves.
Although the Ancient Murrelet is considered a seabird, it is unique in that it spends its non-breeding period in the open ocean, feeding on small fish and krill. During this time, they can be found in deeper waters away from the coast, often near cold-water currents where their prey is abundant. These birds tend to congregate in large flocks while foraging, sometimes up to thousands of individuals, and they often dive to depths of up to 100 meters to catch their prey
Behavior of the Ancient Murrelet
The Ancient Murrelet is a fascinating bird known for its distinctive behavior. During the breeding season, the Ancient Murrelet gathers in colonies on rocky cliffs along the coast. They nest in crevices and rock cavities, often in burrows previously excavated by other seabirds.
Ancient Murrelets are nocturnal, returning to their nests at night after feeding in the open ocean during the day. They are known for their unique vocalizations and are often heard making a variety of calls, including a series of trills and whistles.
When foraging in the ocean, Ancient Murrelets are skilled divers and swimmers, using their wings to propel themselves underwater in search of small fish, krill, and other invertebrates. They can dive to depths of up to 30 meters and can remain underwater for over a minute.
Ancient Murrelets are also known for their unique behavior of “rafting,” where they gather in large groups on the water’s surface. These rafts can include thousands of birds and are thought to be a mechanism for socializing and conserving energy
The breeding behavior of the ancient murrelet is a remarkable phenomenon. This seabird spends most of its life at sea, but during the breeding season, it returns to land to breed. The ancient murrelet breeds in colonies on remote islands and rocky shores. It typically nests in burrows or rock crevices, which provides protection from predators and harsh weather conditions.
The breeding season of the ancient murrelet occurs in the late spring and early summer. During this time, the birds arrive at their breeding colonies and begin to court and mate. The male will display to the female by calling and bobbing his head up and down. They may also engage in preening, bill touching, and other behaviors to reinforce their bond.
After mating, the female will lay one or two eggs in the burrow or crevice. Both parents take turns incubating the eggs, which typically hatch after about a month. The chicks are altricial, meaning they are born without feathers and are entirely dependent on their parents for food and warmth.
Once the chicks have hatched, the parents will take turns feeding and caring for them. They regurgitate fish and other small marine creatures to feed their young. As the chicks grow, they begin to develop their feathers and become more independent. After about 40 days, they are ready to fledge and leave the nest.
The ancient murrelet is known for its unique breeding behavior, which involves a period of courtship and bonding followed by shared parental duties. The birds are highly social and often form large breeding colonies, which provide protection from predators and support for the chicks as they grow and develop
Conservation Status of the Ancient Murrelet
The Ancient Murrelet is considered a species of “Least Concern” on the IUCN Red List due to its large and stable population. However, it is still subject to threats and conservation efforts are in place to protect their breeding habitats.
Human activities such as oil spills, pollution, and climate change have been known to affect their breeding success, as well as the availability of food sources. In addition, the disturbance of breeding sites by human activity, such as tourism and development, can also have a negative impact on their breeding behavior.
Efforts to conserve the Ancient Murrelet include the monitoring of their population numbers, protection of breeding sites, and regulations on human activities near breeding colonies. For example, the Murrelet Protected Area in British Columbia, Canada, has been established to protect the breeding habitats of the species.
The Ancient Murrelet is also included in various international agreements and conventions, such as the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds, which help to protect and conserve the species and its habitats