Thick-billed Murre

 
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Thick-billed Murre

Uria lomvia

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

 
3D View: Thick-billed Murre
 
 
Two Thick-billed-Murres sitting on a rock

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.

A Thick-billed Murre diving from a 100 metre cliff into 30 metres of water and back again.
 
Not hungry
Hungry
 
 

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.

 

Identification features

 

Thick-billed Murres can be identified by their black head and black-and-white belly.