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The Thick-billed Murre (scientifically named Uria lomvia) is a sea bird, which lays its egg on ledges on rocky cliffs. Distantly related to penguins, these birds use their wings to fly underwater.
Image: A Thick-billed Murre egg
Why this species is important
One of the most abundant seabirds found in the Arctic, many Inuit of Canada and Greenland traditionally collected its eggs as a food source.
Young Thick-billed Murres
Thick-billed Murres are experts at fishing. From high cliff edges, Thick-billed Murres fly deep into the ocean to catch fish and bring them back to the cliff tops to eat.
Watch how a Thick-billed Murre travels from the top of the cliff (100 meters) to 30 metres below the ocean.
Climate change and the Arctic food chain
Thick-billed Murres mainly feed on Arctic cod which live in cooler waters. Climate change will affect this species as the ice and sea conditions and available food sources change.
Research by scientists has shown that Thick-billed Murres are switching from eating Arctic cod to capelin, a fish that thrives in warmer waters, symbolizing a big change to their feeding habits and environments.
From egg to adult
Each year, a female Thick-billed Murre lays a single egg directly on a rock ledge, on large cliff faces overlooking the Arctic Ocean. The breeding pair returns to the same spot to lay eggs for the rest of their breeding years.
Adults travel up to 100 km to catch fish to feed their chicks. While fishing, they reach depths of up to 150 meters and can stay under water for four minutes! Once the chick matures enough, but before it can fly, it jumps from the ledge to the water below and calls to the adult male. The male swims away with the chick and takes over the parenting role from this time on.
Thick-billed Murres can be identified by their black head and black-and-white belly.
Thick-billed Murre's survival
The Thick-billed Murre breeds on coastal rocky cliffs in the High Arctic of Europe, Asia and North America. In Canada, major colonies are found on eastern and northern Baffin Island and northern Hudson Bay. A Thick-billed Murre will lay its single egg on cliff ledges that can be 200 or 300 metres high. Adults fly many kilometers from the breeding cliffs in order to feed and bring back food for their young.
Watch this video to see how it is done.
Transcript: Thick-billed Murre's survival
A view of a cliff, where many Thick-billed Murres are nesting. Many birds can be seen there. One of them is swimming at the bottom. A veiw from above of the of the nesting site along the face of the cliff. There are over hundreds of birds there, nesting. A view from the bottom of the cliff, it is very steep. A view of one of the Thick-billed Murre's going underneath the water, it is an agile swimmer.