Seabirds & Waterfowl - Sounds Wild
Murrelet Triangle!


Download Episode: Murrelet Triangle! (MP3 file 3,518 kB)


Murrelet Triangle

Marbled murrelets are listed as endangered and threatened over most of their former range along the Pacific Coast from California north to British Columbia. They spend most of their lives at sea, and are very secretive nesters when ashore. Although this is a very elusive bird for people to see down South, it is by far the most abundant seabird in Southeast Alaska, home to the world's greatest concentration of murrelets.

For a number of years Biologist Matt Kirchhoff worked with marbled murrelets in the waters just south of Juneau, in Stephens Passage, Tracy Arm and Port Snettisham. He saw thousands of birds, and on the basis of those surveys, Port Snettisham has been designated a globally Important Bird Area by Bird Life International and Audubon.

However, in recent years, Kirchhoff and his colleagues have found an even higher concentration of birds in and near Glacier Bay - the "murrelet triangle." During the summer, tens of thousands of marbled murrelets nesting in surrounding forests congregate in the area to forage for fish and krill. Murrelet surveyors have counted as many as 5,000 murrelets an hour flying into this area during morning feeding migrations.

The area is bounded by Sitakaday Narrows in Glacier Bay, Point Adolphus on North Chichagof Island, and Lemesurier Island in Icy Strait. The upwelling of cold, nutrient-rich water brings feed, drawing humpback whales, murrelets, sea lions and other predators.