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Scripp's Murrelet

Synthliboramphus scrippsi

Length: 9.5 inches Wingspan: 15 inches Seasonality: Non-resident in South Dakota
ID Keys:Dark upperparts, white underparts, dark upperpart of face, white lower part of face with small white "wedge" in front of eye

Xantus's Murrelet - Synthliboramphus hypoleucusThe Scripp's Murrelet is a "new" species, with the Scripp's and Guadalupe Murrelet recently split (2012) from what was formerly considered one species, the Xantus's Murrelet.  They are a very uncommon bird, only found nesting on a handful of islands, as introduced rats and other disturbances have devastated many former nesting colonies.  The National Park Service is actively removing predator populations on nesting colony islands in an attempt to increase populations of the Scripp's Murrelet.

Habitat: Found on a few select islands off the Pacific Coast, using locations with protected nesting sites, such as rocky crevices or vegetative cover.  Outside of the breeding season, typically found far from the mainland, sometimes close to nesting islands, but often far out to sea.

Diet: Feeds mostly small fish, but will also feed on small crustaceans and other small marine creatures.

Behavior: Forages by diving and swimming under the water in search of food items. Doesn't feed in flocks or by itself, but is almost always found foraging in pairs.

Nesting: The Scripp's Murrelet doesn't build a nest. The female lays 2 eggs directly on the ground, typically in a rocky crevice, under a bush, or in another protected area.  Both parents help to incubate the eggs. Hatchlings typically leave the nest within a day or so after hatching, often making a perilous leap into the water below.  Once in the water, the parents reunite with the young and feed and tend to them.

Song: Call of the Scripp's Murrelet is a series of three to eight, consistent, high-pitched notes.

Migration: Breeds on a few islands off the Pacific Coast, with most breeding birds found in the Channel Islands off of California.  Non-breeding birds disperse, with most found off the California or northern Mexican coast, but they will sometimes disperse as far north as Washington state and British Columbia.

Interactive eBird Map: Click here to access an interactive eBird map of Scripp's Murrelet sightings

Similar Species: In range, most likely to be confused with Guadalupe Murrelet, Craveri's Murrelet, Ancient Murrelet, and Marbled Murrelet.

Conservation Status: Populations have been in a long-term decline.  The species has a very small breeding range, and many former breeding colonies have disappeared, largely due to introduced predators on nesting islands, such as rats.  The IUCN lists the Xantus's Murrelet as a "Vulnerable" species. (no separate information on Scripp's Murrelet available at the time this page was created).

Further Information: 1) U.S. Fish & Wildlife Species Profile - Scripp's Murrelet

2) Audubon - Scripp's Murrelet

3) National Park Service Profile - Scripps Murrelet

Photo Information: Photo taken by "Stonebird" -  August 19th, 2011 - Marina Del Rey, California - Photo licensed under Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial ShareAlike 2.0 Generic License


Click below for a higher-resolution map
Xantus's Murrelet - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Non-resident in South Dakota
NOTE: Range map is for Xantus's Murrelet, from which Scripp's Murrelet was recently split.

Additional Scripp's Murrelet Photos (coming soon!!)