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 and Feb 2018.
Breeding Status Nonbreeder
NC BRC List Definitive
State Status
U.S. Status
State Rank SZ
Global Rank G5
Coastal Plain Very scarce winter visitor offshore and along the coast; now (2019) very rare 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].
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.
Attribution LeGrand[2019-06-26], LeGrand[2019-04-19], LeGrand[2018-06-09]
NC Map
Map depicts all counties with a report (transient or resident) for the species.
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