Marbled murrelet mysteries revealed by radio telemetry data

A researcher holds a marbled murrelet. The birds were tagged with radio transmitters to record location data as part of a study of their movement patterns. USDA Forest Service photo

In the latest edition of Science Findings, the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Research Station explores the “hidden world” of the marbled murrelet.

The marbled murrelet, Brachyramphus marmoratus, is a Pacific coast -dwelling shore bird that is federally listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Ace, in part due to habitat loss.

A marbled murrelet egg rests in a natural shelf. The birds do not build nests for their eggs. USDA Forest Service photo by Nick Hatch.
A marbled murrelet egg rests in a natural shelf. The birds do not build nests for their eggs. USDA Forest Service photo by Nick Hatch.

Their eggs, which are laid on naturally occurring platforms, or shelves, are especially vulnerable to damage as a result of exposure to human-driven activities or development. Their lack of traditional nests also makes it difficult for scientists to study their breeding patterns, even as their total population continues to decline.

A five-year PNW Research Station study used radio transmitters to tag and track a cohort of nearly 150 birds in northwest Washington, producing valuable data about their feeding, breeding and flight habits.

The research illuminated how the birds interact with both marine and coastal forest habitats, and may offer some insight into why this population of birds continues to struggle, despite protections afforded to it by the ESA and in the Northwest Forest Plan amendments.

To learn more, check out Science Findings #213 at: https://www.fs.usda.gov/treesearch/pubs/57633.

Researchers gathered radio telemetry data from a group of around 150 tagged marbled murrelet birds in northwest Washington. USDA Forest Service photo.
Researchers gathered radio telemetry data from a group of around 150 tagged marbled murrelet birds in northwest Washington. USDA Forest Service photo.

Source information: USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Research Station staff report.

Leave a Reply