Marbled murrelet

Latin name
Brachyramphus marmoratus
Federal status
State status

Marbled murrelets forage in marine waters and nest inland in mature and old growth conifer forests. Small schooling fish (Pacific anchovy, Pacific herring, candlefish) and Pacific sand lance make up most of the marbled murrelet diet, which may also include small crustaceans when fish are not abundant.

Marbled murrelets appear to establish long term pair bonds and fidelity to nesting areas and nest trees.

Description and Range

Geographic range

Distribution and abundance

This species is an uncommon resident in marine waters in general proximity to nesting habitat. It is most abundant in northern Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and least abundant along the coast of southwestern Washington.

Surveys indicate the highest nesting presence on the Olympia Peninsula, the northern Cascades, and in limited remaining habitat in southwest Washington.

The population estimate for 2013 in Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca was 4,395 birds, and on the Washington coast it was 1,257 birds. The overall estimate for the rate of annual decline in marbled murrelet density for Washington was -4.65 percent for the period from 2001 through 2013.


In Washington, marbled murrelets nest in mature and old growth conifer forests, and sometimes in comparatively younger forests with residual old growth trees. The nest is located in a depression on a mat of moss, lichen, or debris accumulations on large branches. The primary factor influencing breeding distribution is likely the availability of suitable nesting platforms within close proximity to marine water foraging areas. Marine foraging areas are usually within 1.2 to 3 miles of shore, typically in waters less than 100 feet deep.