Scientific Name: Synthliboramphus antiquus
Taxonomy Group: Birds
COSEWIC Range: British Columbia, Pacific Ocean
COSEWIC Assessment Date and Status Change: November 2014
COSEWIC Status: Special Concern
COSEWIC Status Criteria:
COSEWIC Reason for Designation: Approximately half of the global breeding population of this burrow-nesting seabird occurs on Haida Gwaii, British Columbia. Recent survey information for the species is limited and the overall population trend is unknown. There is, however, evidence of declines at some breeding colonies on the west coast of Haida Gwaii, although populations may be increasing at some colonies on the east coast. The species is exposed to a number of threats including predation from introduced predators, habitat degradation, exposure to oil and oceanographic changes. The species may become Threatened if these threats are not appropriately managed.
COSEWIC History of Status Designation: Designated Special Concern in April 1993. Status re-examined and confirmed in November 2004 and November 2014.
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Special Concern
Date of Listing (yyyy-mm-dd): 2006-08-15
Please note that this information is provided for general information purposes only. For the most up to date and accurate list of species listed under the Species at Risk Act, please see the Justice Laws Website.
Image of Ancient Murrelet
The Ancient Murrelet, Synthliboramphus antiquus, is a seabird in the Alcidae, or auk family. It is most closely related to the Japanese Murrelet, S. wumizusume, but also to two other birds in North America: Xantus’s Murrelet, S. hypoleucus and Craveri’s Murrelet, S. craveri. Ancient Murrelets are about 25 cm long and are grey-bodied with a white throat and cheek, black chin and crown, and a yellow-tipped bill. In breeding plumage they have a distinctive line of white feathers extending back from the eye and fine black-and-white lines on the sides of the nape. (Updated 2017/06/02)
Distribution and Population
The Ancient Murrelet is a small seabird of the North Pacific. In Canada, it breeds only on the Queen Charlotte Islands of British Columbia. Several colonies of Ancient Murrelets in the Queen Charlotte Islands have disappeared and others are declining. The species is a winter resident and transient along the entire coast of British Columbia. (Updated 2017/06/02)
Ancient Murrelets breed on islands in areas that are at least 300 to 400 m from shore. They prefer to nest in forested areas, but will use treeless islands if forested ones are not available. They dig their burrows wherever there is sufficient soil depth, generally near trees or other objects for protection. (Updated 2017/06/02)
Ancient Murrelets excavate nesting burrows under the base of trees, under stumps or fallen logs, in rock crevices, or under the roots of grass tussocks. They line the nest with dry grass and leaves. Clutches contain 2 eggs. They produce only one clutch per year. Departure from the nest occurs 2 to 3 days after hatching. Ancient Murrelets probably begin breeding at 3 or 4 years of age. The breeding season in the Queen Charlotte Islands extends from April to June. The birds winter to the south of the Queen Charlotte Islands: some in the inshore waters off Vancouver Island, from October to February; others farther south. They feed on planktonic crustaceans and fish. (Updated 2017/06/02)
The main limiting factor, for Ancient Murrelets, has been the introduction of exotic predators. In British Columbia, these predators are rats and raccoons; several colonies of Ancient Murrelets have disappeared or been drastically reduced because of the presence of these exotic predators. Disruptions by tourists, such as lights, can limit the reproduction of Ancient Murrelets, since this bird is very sensitive to disturbances. The Ancient Murrelet is also very vulnerable to oil spills. (Updated 2017/06/02)
More information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available in the Species at Risk Act: A Guide.
Provincial and Territorial Protection
Recovery Progress and Activities
Summary of Progress to Date The single biggest factor influencing the status of Ancient Murrelet populations on breeding colonies in Haida Gwaii, British Columbia, is the presence or absence of introduced predators, especially raccoons but also rats. Removal of rats from Langara Island, historically the world’s largest colony of Ancient Murrelets, in the mid-1990s has enabled the murrelet breeding population there to increase. In contrast, control of raccoons has, to date, proven less effective, largely because very large source populations remain on the larger islands in the archipelago (Graham and Moresby Islands). Summary of Research/Monitoring Studies of Ancient Murrelet populations continue, led by the Laskeek Bay Conservation Society, with support from Environment Canada (EC). In addition, the EC monitoring program for the species is very active, with work continuing on several large colonies in Haida Gwaii. Finally, in partnership with Simon Fraser University, EC is conducting research on factors related to habitat (colony) selection, and means to speed population recovery following habitat restoration. Summary of Recovery Activities Researchers are using recordings of Ancient Murrelet vocalizations as indicators of quality nesting habitat which will help attract the birds to nest in new areas. Artificial nesting burrows containing eggshells also are being used to provide a visual cue of the quality of these areas for nesting. These measures will contribute to the colonization of the island and will help increase population numbers. URLs University of Guelph: Aquatic Birdshttp://www.aquatic.uoguelph.ca/BirdS/speciesacc/Pacific/Pac_Birds/Alcidae/Ancmurr/S_antiquus.htm British Columbia Ministry of Environment: Ancient Murrelet Species Informationhttp://www.env.gov.bc.ca/wld/frpa/iwms/documents/Birds/b_ancientmurrelet.pdf
PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.
14 record(s) found.
- COSEWIC Status Reports (2 record(s) found.)
- Response Statements (2 record(s) found.)
- Action Plans (3 record(s) found.)
- Management Plans (1 record(s) found.)
- Orders (2 record(s) found.)
- COSEWIC Annual Reports (2 record(s) found.)
- Consultation Documents (1 record(s) found.)
- Recovery Document Posting Plans (1 record(s) found.)
COSEWIC Status Reports
Response Statement - Ancient Murrelet (2015-12-23)Approximately half of the global breeding population of this burrow-nesting seabird occurs on Haida Gwaii, British Columbia. Recent survey information for the species is limited and the overall population trend is unknown. There is, however, evidence of declines at some breeding colonies on the west coast of Haida Gwaii, although populations may be increasing at some colonies on the east coast. The species is exposed to a number of threats including predation from introduced predators, habitat degradation, exposure to oil and oceanographic changes. The species may become Threatened if these threats are not appropriately managed.
Response Statements - Ancient Murrelet (2005-11-15)This burrow-nesting seabird is impacted by mammalian predators that have been introduced to its breeding islands. Predators have been removed from some islands but populations have not increased as a result. About half of the world population nests in the Queen Charlotte Islands, British Columbia; the Canadian population is thought to be declining.
COSEWIC Annual Reports
COSEWIC Annual Report - 2005 (2005-08-12)2005 Annual Report to the Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council (CESCC) from the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.
COSEWIC Annual Report - 2014-2015 (2015-11-20)Under Canada’s Species at Risk Act (SARA), the foremost function of COSEWIC is to "assess the status of each wildlife species considered by COSEWIC to be at risk and, as part of the assessment, identify existing and potential threats to the species". COSEWIC held two Wildlife Species Assessment Meetings in this reporting year (October, 2014 to September, 2015) from November 23 to November 28, 2014 and from April 27 to May 1, 2015. During the current reporting period, COSEWIC assessed the status or reviewed the classification of 56 wildlife species. The wildlife species assessment results for the 2014-2015 reporting period include the following: Extinct: 0 Extirpated: 1 Endangered: 21 Threatened: 11 Special Concern: 21 Data Deficient: 1 Not at Risk: 1 Total: 56 Of the 56 wildlife species examined, COSEWIC reviewed the classification of 40 that had been previously assessed. The review of classification for 24 of those wildlife species resulted in a confirmation of the same risk status as the previous assessment.