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 breeding 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 increased since 1970, especially on the Atlantic coast (Wilhelm et al. 2015a). Common Murres are only hunted by residents of Newfoundland and Labrador and by Indigenous people. Harvest levels decreased significantly following the implementation of hunting regulations and have since been within the target sustainable level of harvest. 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.


Main designations for the species
DesignationStatusDateSubspecies, population
IUCN (Global)Least concern2018 
Wild Species (Canada)Secure2015 
Bird Conservation Region StrategyPriority Species2013 

Population status

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

Population estimate

Geographic area or populationPopulation estimate
Canada1,000,000 - 2,000,000 breeding birds

Distribution maps


Migration strategy, occurrence

Short-distance migrant

Responsibility for conservation

Geographic areaResponsibility based on % of global population

Conservation and management

Bycatch of seabirds in commercial fisheries is an important conservation concern with the majority of reported catches in the gillnet fishery involving Common Murre. In the Pacific, salmon gillnets continue to take a heavy toll (Ellis et al. 2013). In Atlantic Canada, closure of the cod fishery resulted in a drastic reduction in gillnet mortality, and a measurable response in the Common Murre population (Regular et al. 2013). Nevertheless, mortality from entanglement in nets is still significant (Gaston et al. 2009). Increased egg and chick predation and/or nest desertion due to disturbance is a growing concern, as reduced sea ice is forcing polar bears to search for alternate prey on land (Kuletz et al. 2017, and references therein). 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 2000s (Wilhelm et al. 2009). Still, in light of increasing oil development in Atlantic Canada, the risk of accidental oil pollution is great. Murres continue to be harvested by residents of Newfoundland and Labrador, as well as Indigenous peoples, but harvest levels have declined significantly after hunting regulations were implemented in 1994 and are now well-within the sustainable harvest limits. In recent years (2013-2017), 20,000 to 40,000 Common Murres have been harvested each year in Newfoundland and Labrador.


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 -- Other
Boreal Softwood ShieldBoreal Softwood Shield, sub-region and priority type: Quebec -- Other
Gulf of St. LawrenceGulf of St. Lawrence, sub-region and priority type: Atlantic, NS -- Conservation
Newfoundland and Labrador Shelves Newfoundland and Labrador Shelves , sub-region and priority type: Atlantic, NL -- Other
Northern Pacific RainforestNorthern Pacific Rainforest, sub-region and priority type: Pacific and Yukon -- Stewardship
Scotian ShelfScotian Shelf, sub-region and priority type: Atlantic, NB -- Conservation
Scotian ShelfScotian Shelf, sub-region and priority type: Atlantic, NS -- Conservation