Thick-billed Murre
(Uria lomvia)


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

The Thick-billed Murre breeds in very large, dense colonies on sea cliffs in Canada’s subarctic and arctic waters. These colonies, with up to a million breeders, form the largest aggregations of seabirds in Canada. Dedicated colony counts across parts of its Canadian range suggest little overall change in abundance since 1970. The species is subject to a managed hunt in Newfoundland and Labrador, as well as a subsistence harvest of adults and eggs in Nunavut, and is very susceptible to oiling and other anthropogenic threats. However, its population status currently appears secure. 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
CanadaLittle ChangeMediumAt an Acceptable Level

Population estimate

Geographic area or populationPopulation estimate
Canada3,000,000 - 4,000,000 breeding birds

Distribution maps


Migration strategy, occurrence

Short-distance migrant

Responsibility for conservation

Geographic areaResponsibility based on % of global population

Conservation and management

Canadian Thick-billed Murres and their eggs are harvested by indigenous hunters in many parts of their breeding range. This species is also harvested by residents of Greenland and Newfoundland and Labrador. The harvest of wintering birds in Newfoundland and Labrador was once estimated at 600,000-900,000 individuals (Elliot et al. 1991), but is now greatly reduced (Gaston and Robertson 2010). In recent years (2013-2017), approximately 60,000-65,000 Thick-billed Murres are harvested annually, with a peak of about 95,000 birds in 2016. Large numbers of murres were also caught incidentally in drift-net fisheries in the 1960’s, but changing fishing practices have greatly reduced this bycatch (Gaston and Hipfner 2000). The species remains susceptible to chronic and accidental oil pollution in its wintering range. Southern colonies may be affected by climate change (Gaston et al. 2002).


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
Arctic Plains and MountainsArctic Plains and Mountains, sub-region and priority type: Prairie and Northern -- Other
Arctic Plains and MountainsArctic Plains and Mountains, sub-region and priority type: Quebec -- Other
Atlantic Northern ForestsAtlantic Northern Forests, sub-region and priority type: Quebec -- Other
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 -- Other
Scotian ShelfScotian Shelf, sub-region and priority type: Atlantic, NS -- Other