Ancient Murrelet
(Synthliboramphus antiquus)


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

The Ancient Murrelet is a small, burrow-nesting seabird that breeds in colonies on the islands of Haida Gwaii, British Columbia. The population suffered heavy predation by introduced mammalian predators and is recognised as a species of Special Concern in Canada (COSEWIC 2004b). Management activities have been successful, and the population’s abundance at several major colonies now shows a moderate increase relative to about 1970. However, ongoing predator control is required to maintain the population’s status and further encourage recovery to levels seen before the arrival of introduced mammals. This species has been identified as a priority for conservation and/or stewardship in one or more Bird Conservation Region Strategies in Canada.


Main designations for the species
DesignationStatusDateSubspecies, population
COSEWIC (Canada)Special Concern2014 
SARA (Canada)Special Concern2006 
IUCN (Global)Least concern2018 
Partners in Flight (North America)Watch list - yellow D2017 
Wild Species (Canada)Imperiled2015 
State of North America’s BirdsWatch list2016 
Bird Conservation Region StrategyPriority Species2013 

Population status

Geographic area or populationPopulation change relative to ~1970ReliabilityStatus in relation to goal
CanadaModerate IncreaseMediumBelow Acceptable Level

Population estimate

Geographic area or populationPopulation estimate
Canada500,000 - 600,000 breeding birds

Distribution maps


Migration strategy, occurrence

Long-distance migrant

Responsibility for conservation

Geographic areaResponsibility based on % of global population

Conservation and management

The accidental or intentional introduction of mammalian predators, especially rats and raccoons, on islands with breeding colonies of Ancient Murrelet, is believed to have reduced the Canadian population by at least 50% between the 1950s and 1990s (Gaston and Shoji 2010). Predator control programs were initiated in the 1990s and have been successful at some colony locations, but the population remains depressed below historic levels and recolonisation by predators remains a potential problem (Gaston and Shoji 2010). Where predator control has been successful, the abundance of Ancient Murrelets has increased (e.g., Regehr et al. 2007). Declines in Ancient Murrelet burrow occupancy may be the result of other threats, including oceanographic changes, habitat loss/destruction, oil exploration, and commercial fisheries (COSEWIC 2014b). For information on the legal status of this species under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) and to view available recovery documents, see the SARA Registry.


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
Northern Pacific RainforestNorthern Pacific Rainforest, sub-region and priority type: Pacific and Yukon -- Stewardship