Marvelous Marbled Murrelets


The marbled murrelet, a seabird about the size of a robin, is a redwoods inhabitant listed as endangered in California and threatened in the U.S. The murrelet nests high on a limb in the redwood canopy, hundreds of feet above ground. The bird flies at high speeds as far as 30 miles at both dawn and dusk to feed on herring, smelt or anchovies as it swims through the ocean. The murrelet parents trade morning and evening feedings; the mother hatches only one chick per year.

Many murrelets nest in state parks with old-growth trees, such as Big Basin Redwoods, Portola Redwoods, and Redwood National and State Parks.

Marbled murrelet eggs and babies are prey to corvids—jays, crows and ravens. They are first attracted to food or scraps left by humans, and then the corvids notice the murrelet nests high on a flat redwood branch. Researchers at Humboldt State University are experimenting with painting and speckling chicken eggs to look like murrelet eggs, then hiding a very small dose of carbachol inside the eggs. Colorless, tasteless carbachol induces immediate vomiting. Hopefully, the corvids will associate the instant emesis with eating eggs and leave the murrelet eggs alone.

Park visitors can help by keeping their campsites and trails very clean and not feeding wildlife. Please pick up every dropped crumb to help save this bird from extinction.