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Habitat selection by Kittlitz's Brachyramphus brevirostris and Marbled murrelets B. marmoratus in Harriman Fjord, Prince William Sound, Alaska



1Oregon Coast National Wildlife Refuge Complex, 2127 SE Marine Science Drive, Newport, Oregon 97365, USA (shawn_stephensen@fws.gov)
2US Fish and Wildlife Service, Migratory Bird Management, 1011 East Tudor Road, Anchorage, Alaska 99503, USA
313540 Westwind Dr., Anchorage, Alaska 99516, USA

Received 2 September 2015, accepted 24 December 2015

Date Pubished: 2016/04/15
Date Online: 2017/02/28

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STEPHENSEN, S.W., IRONS, D.B., OSTRAND, W.D. & KULETZ, K.J. 2016. Habitat selection by Kittlitz's Brachyramphus brevirostris and Marbled murrelets B. marmoratus in Harriman Fjord, Prince William Sound, Alaska. Marine Ornithology 44: 31-42.

Key words: Kittlitz's Murrelet, Brachyramphus brevirostris, Marbled Murrelet, Brachyramphus marmoratus, Prince William Sound, habitat models, water column parameters, geographic variables


Kittlitz's Murrelet Brachyramphus brevirostris is a rare seabird found in glacial waters of coastal Alaska and Siberia. Survey data have indicated population declines since the 1980s and, as a result, in 2004 the species became a candidate for listing under the Endangered Species Act. Factors that may have contributed to the population decline include human disturbance and glacial retreat. In our study, conducted in Harriman Fjord of Prince William Sound (PWS), Alaska, we defined the characteristics of the marine habitat, including water column characteristics, selected by Kittlitz's and Marbled murrelets B. marmoratus through the two phases of the breeding cycle: incubation and chick-rearing. We also examined habitat selection for both species with respect to geographic variables (distance to glacier, distance to sill and distance to shore) and water column characteristics (conductivity, temperature, turbidity and depth). Our results indicate that Marbled Murrelets are associated with deep, clear water far removed from glaciers. In contrast, Kittlitz's Murrelets are associated with turbid, cold, shallow, fresh water close to glaciers and glacial moraine sills. These data indicate that the two species occupy different areas within the fjord, although with some overlap, related to geographic variables and water column characteristics specific to each species.


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