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Endangered Marbled Murrelets build both tree and ground nests

By Philip C Stouffer

Waterfront or mountain view? Why do Marbled Murrelets choose to nest where they do? A recent paper by Blake A. Barbaree and coauthors is highlighted by the editor of The Condor: Ornithological Applications.
“Marbled Murrelets forage off the Pacific coast of the U.S. and Canada, but they usually build their nests in the tops of towering moss-covered trees in coastal forest. Is this coastal habitat critical for this endangered seabird species? Blake Barbaree and coauthors followed radio-tagged murrelets in southeastern Alaska to their nests. As expected, many birds nested in trees, but about half of the birds nested on the ground on remote rocky slopes, up to 52km from the coast, and up to 5 km from the nearest tree. These nests were not more successful, so it is unclear why the birds choose two such different strategies for nesting, especially when ample coastal forests are available.”

Nesting ecology of Marbled Murrelets at a remote mainland fjord in southeast Alaska by Blake A. Barbaree, S. Kim Nelson, Bruce D. Dugger, Daniel D. Roby, Harry R. Carter, Darrell L. Whitworth, and Scott H. Newman, The Condor: Ornithological Applications 116:173–184. Published online February 19, 2014.

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