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We surveyed Marbled Murrelets (Brachyramphus marmoratus) daily from small boats in Auke Bay and Fritz Cove, Alaska, from May through August 1992 and 1993. Differences in numbers of juveniles and in the timing of their presence in the study area between the two years indicated that breeding phenology was late and productivity was low in 1992 compared to 1993. This difference was consistent with variability in the physical environment. Of 99 fish identified in the bills of fish-holding adult murrelets, 81 (82%) were Pacific Sand Lance (Ammodytes hexapterus). Counts of fish-holding adult murrelets were significantly higher in the evening than at any other time of day. Time of day had no significant effects on counts of fledglings, indicating that juveniles were moving into and out of the study area during the day. Murrelets were predominantly found in groups of two or more, even during incubation, suggesting that murrelets incur an appreciable benefit, such as increased foraging efficiency, from foraging in groups. For both summers, there was no correlation between counts of murrelets on the water and numbers of murrelet detections in the adjacent forest. We suggest that many behavior patterns of the Marbled Murrelet (displaying, choosing of mates, and pair-bonding, finding of nest sites and successful foraging of juveniles) may be socially facilitated. Received 13 January 2003, accepted 28, April 2003.
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Deciphering the social structure of Marbled Murrelets from behavioral observations at sea