Volume 50, No. 2

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The influence of breeding status and nest site location on marine habitat use by Marbled Murrelet Brachyramphus marmoratus


1Environment and Climate Change Canada, Marine Spatial Ecology Lab, Institute of Ocean Sciences, Sidney, British Columbia V8L 4B2, Canada *(
2Center for Wildlife Ecology, Simon Fraser University, 8888 University Drive, Burnaby, British Columbia V5A 1S6, Canada
3Santa Rosa Island Research Station, CSU Channel Islands, One University Drive, Madera 1721, Camarillo, California 93012, USA
4Environment and Climate Change Canada, International Wildlife Trade & Partnerships, 351, boul. Saint-Joseph, Gatineau, Quebec K1A OH3, Canada
5Environment and Climate Change Canada, Water Science and Technology, 645 Dollarton Highway North Vancouver, British Columbia V7G 1N3, Canada
6Birds Canada Atlantic, P.O. Box 5436 Stn. Main Sackville, New Brunswick, Canada
7Environment and Climate Change Canada, Wildlife Research - West, 5421 Roberson Rd, Delta, British Columbia V4K 3N2, Canada
830 Damgate Street, Wymondham, Norfolk, NR18 0BQ, United Kingdom


PASTRAN, S.A., LANK, D.B., O'HARA, P.D., BRADLEY, R.W., LOUGHEED, C., LOUGHHEED, L.W., PARKER, N.R., MCFARLANE TRANQUILLA, L.A., KREBS, E.A., COOKE, F. & BERTRAM, D.F. 2022. The influence of breeding status and nest site location on marine habitat use by Marbled Murrelet Brachyramphus marmoratus. Marine Ornithology 50: 229 - 243

Received 29 April 2022, accepted 18 August 2022

Date Published: 2022/10/15
Date Online: 2022/09/22
Key words: Brachyramphus marmoratus, VHF telemetry, marine home range, utilization distribution, British Columbia, spatial, nesting, breeders, non-breeders


The Marbled Murrelet Brachyramphus marmoratus is a threatened seabird that relies on old-growth forest for nesting. We compare marine space use between breeding and non-breeding birds, and how marine home range locations and overlap vary with respect to nesting location and breeding status. We collected very high frequency (VHF) radio-telemetry data in southern British Columbia from Clayoquot Sound (190 birds; 2000-2002) and Desolation Sound (206 birds; 1998-2001). The sites differ strongly in their oceanic exposure and surrounding terrestrial features. Kernel utilization distribution-based estimates showed that breeders and non-breeders had similar overall distributions, but breeders were more spatially aggregated. Pooled home ranges of non-breeders were larger than those of breeders, but the distributions of individual home range sizes did not differ significantly by breeding status. However, compared with non-breeders, breeding murrelets were more likely to share their home range with other breeders. Home range sizes were larger and commuting distances were longer at Desolation Sound than at Clayoquot Sound; the average home range size for individuals was 241 ± 6.7 km2 at Clayoquot Sound and 330 ± 8.8 km2 at Desolation Sound. Individuals that nested closer together were more likely to share their marine home range in Desolation Sound, but not at Clayoquot Sound. Commuting distance to a nest site was not related to home range size at either site. Our results support the hypothesis that, at a local scale, breeding murrelets congregate at specific foraging areas and are not strongly constrained by commuting distance to nesting locations. Our results also support the concept that home range size may be indicative of the overall habitat quality of an area. We quantify connectivity between terrestrial and marine habitats and highlight important historical foraging locations.


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