Birds of North Carolina:
their Distribution and Abundance
Common Murre - Uria aalge
ALCIDAE Members:
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General Comments For a seemingly interminable time, North Carolina went without a record of this very common alcid. Though the normal winter range of the Common Murre is only south to New England or Long Island -- essentially in offshore waters -- all records of murres in state waters until 2001 had been of Thick-billed. Common Murre is obviously not nearly as migratory as the Thick-billed Murre or the Razorbill, as these latter two species are seen in state waters every few winters, if not more often (i.e., the Razorbill essentially every winter). There have been small flurries of sightings offshore in Jan 2011, Feb 2018, Feb 2022, and in winters 2022-23 and 2023-24. This great increase in numbers in recent winters might actually signal a population increase in Common Murres in eastern North America, as global warming in recent years is making our offshore water temperatures somewhat higher than formerly and thus seemingly less favorable for wintering by all of the alcid species (as they prefer cold water).
Breeding Status Nonbreeder
NC BRC List Definitive
State Status
U.S. Status
State Rank SZ
Global Rank G5
Coastal Plain Very scarce, but greatly increasing, winter visitor offshore and along the coast; now rare (to locally more numerous by 2023) off Oregon Inlet and Cape Hatteras (on pelagic trips) but casual elsewhere. Prior to 2011, there were only two records, both documented by photos: one was seen in the surf/inshore ocean at Cape Hatteras Point on 2-3 Feb 2001* [Chat 66:58-61 link], and one in breeding plumage was found injured on the beach at Emerald Isle (Carteret) on 2 Apr 2008* [Chat 72:112 link]. There were three offshore reports in early 2011, all photographed: a pair about 12 miles SE of Hatteras Inlet on 15 Jan*; one seen during a pelagic trip out of Hatteras on 28 Jan*; and one near Diamond Shoals off Hatteras on 29 Jan* [Chat 76:2 link]. It is possible that there could be duplication of records/birds among these 2011 sightings. In 2018, a remarkable 13 were seen off Oregon Inlet on 10 Feb*; and farther south, trips off Hatteras Inlet recorded four on 18 Feb and three on 19 Feb [Chat 82:66 link]. One was seen off Hatteras on 18 Jan 2019 [Chat 83:59 link]. Out of that inlet in 2020, 2 were seen on 16 Feb and an "excellent" 4 were found on 23 Feb [Chat 84:63 link]. In Feb 2022, there was an excellent flurry of records, both offshore and even from shore: on trips out of Oregon Inlet, five were seen on 7 Feb, 12 seen on 21 Feb, and a state record 25 seen on 27 Feb; and from shore were two at the southern end of Bodie Island (Dare) on 13 Feb and one at Jennette's Pier in Nags Head on 13 Feb [Chat 86:55 link]. Ocean watches at Cape Hatteras point in spring 2022 yielded single birds on 3 Mar, 1 Apr, 3 Apr, and 7 Apr (eBird database). In winter 2022-23, on pelagic trips out of Oregon Inlet, 44 were counted on 9 Feb and a remarkable 66 were tallied on 19 Feb; one was at the Fort Macon SP jetty (Carteret) on 10-12 Feb; and an excellent 12 were counted from land at Jennette's Pier (Dare) on 28 Feb. In Feb 2024, it was seen on all five pelagic trips off Oregon Inlet, with the highest tally of 32 on 24 Feb. Another was seen from shore at Nags Head on 18 Feb 2024.
Piedmont No records.
Mountains No records.
Finding Tips The increase in sightings in the past decade is gratifying for pelagic birders, but whether this signals a population increase in the species is not known. At any rate, take a winter pelagic trip, and carefully scrutinize all alcids, and do not assume all of the large black and white ones are Razorbills.
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Attribution LeGrand[2024-05-11], LeGrand[2023-05-17], LeGrand[2023-03-11]
NC Map
Map depicts all counties with a report (transient or resident) for the species.
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