Common Murre
(Uria aalge)


Picture of bird
© Glen Tepke (
For additional photos and vocalizations, visit Dendroica. (Link opens in a new window.)

In Canada, Common Murres are found primarily in Atlantic Canada but also occur in smaller numbers along the coast of British Columbia. Population trends vary among colonies but overall, the Canadian population appears to have changed little relative to about 1970. Common Murres are highly susceptible to gillnet fisheries and oil pollution; both of these anthropogenic activities result in significant murre mortality. This species has been identified as a priority for conservation and/or stewardship in one or more Bird Conservation Region Strategies in Canada.


Listing of the main designations for the species
DesignationStatusDateSubspecies, population
IUCN (Global)Least Concern2012 
Wild Species (Canada)Secure2010 
Bird Conservation Region StrategyPriority Species2013 

Population status

Geographic areaStatusReliability
CanadaLittle ChangeMedium

Population estimate

Canada> 1,000,000 breeding birds

Distribution maps


Migration strategy, occurrence

Short-distance migrant

Responsibility for conservation of world population


Conservation and management

The incidental catch of seabirds is an important conservation concern with the majority of reported catches involving Common Murre. In the Pacific, salmon gillnets continue to take a heavy toll (Ellis et al. 2013). In Atlantic Canada, gillnet fisheries have been drastically reduced since the 1990s, but mortality from entanglement in nets is still significant (Gaston et al. 2009). Murres are also highly susceptible to chronic and accidental oil pollution. Off the coast of Newfoundland, oiling rates were among the highest in the world (Wiese and Ryan 1999), but have declined since the 1990s (Wilhelm et al. 2009). Still, in light of increasing oil development in Atlantic Canada, the risk of accidental oil pollution is great. Murres have been hunted by residents of Newfoundland and Labrador and by native people for generations. Totals of about 600,000 to 900,000 were shot annually during the 1970s and 1980s, but current levels have been reduced to 200,000 to 400,000 birds. However, murres may also face illegal harvest, which could negatively impact the populations (CWS Waterfowl Committee 2014).


Bird conservation region strategies

Environment and Climate Change Canada and partners have developed Bird Conservation Region Strategies in each of Canada’s Bird Conservation Regions (BCRs). In these strategies, selected species are identified as priorities for one or more of the following reasons:

  • conservation concerns (i.e., species vulnerable due to population size, distribution, population trend, abundance, or threats)
  • stewardship responsibilities (i.e., species that typify the regional avifauna or have a large proportion of their range or population in the sub-region)
  • management concerns (i.e., species that require ongoing management because of their socio-economic importance as game species, or because of their impacts on other species or habitats)
  • other concerns (i.e., species deemed a priority by regional experts for other reasons than those listed above or because they are listed as species at risk or concern at the provincial level)

Select any of the sub-regions below to view the BCR strategy for additional details.

BCRs, marine biogeographic units, and sub-regions in which the species is listed as a priority
RegionSub-region and priority type
Atlantic Northern ForestsAtlantic Northern Forests, sub-region and priority type: Quebec Region
Boreal Softwood ShieldBoreal Softwood Shield, sub-region and priority type: Quebec Region
Newfoundland and Labrador Shelves Newfoundland and Labrador Shelves , sub-region and priority type: Atlantic Region - Newfoundland and Labrador
Northern Pacific RainforestNorthern Pacific Rainforest, sub-region and priority type: Pacific and Yukon Region
Scotian ShelfScotian Shelf, sub-region and priority type: Atlantic Region - New Brunswick
Scotian ShelfScotian Shelf, sub-region and priority type: Atlantic Region - Nova Scotia