20090811 Long-billed Murrelet at mouth of Little River Humboldt Co California

Here are details of our most recent and most chasable Long-billed Murrelet so far this year. This is largely an excerpt of my California Bird Record Committee Report. I have also attached a few images.

Long-billed Murrelet
Number Seen:
about 700 meters offshore of Little River mouth

click coordinates for map
N41.03198 W124.12695

Nearest Town:
Length of time seen:
15 minutes
Circumstances of observation:
While conducting a Marbled Murrelet survey, we happened upon this bird. Vince Slabe was surveying the starboard side, I was surveying the port side and Moe Morrissette was piloting the boat. Moe was driving the boat at about 15km per hour. Vince and I spotted two Brachyramphus murrelets about 10 meters on his side of the transect line. He began to speak data on these birds into his voice recorder. I then looked at the birds and I identified one bird as an adult Marbled Murrelet in mostly alternate plumage and the other as an adult Long-billed Murrelet also in mostly alternate plumage. When I first saw the bird through binoculars it was about 120 meters away.. I looked at the bird through 10x25 Ziess binoculars and it took but an instant to ID it as a Long-billed Murrelet. I reached for my video camera. Moe got his camera as well and first Moe and then Vince proceeded to cautiously follow the bird and Moe and I documented the sighting.

Detailed description (including age, plumage and sex if known):
Age: After Hatch Year
Plumage: mostly Alternate
Sex: unknown

Small size indicated one of the small alcids. This bird had white lower half of the face, a white front part of the neck and a white chest.. All 3 regions had dark fleck against with white background as shown in the image. It's hind crown/nape area had two whitish areas on either side of the midline. The remainer of the bird's plumage was a dark brownish coloration. The interface between and light and dark was reminiscent of the Xantus's Murrelets and the Craveri's Murrelets in that the interface went horizontally across the cheek of the bird and then vertically down the side of the neck with no white collar, such that you see on one of it congeners. This bird had a few bits of dark feathering on the white chest but not as extensive as the two Del Norte birds.

I compared images of this bird with images of the 20090731 Eel River bird. It appears to differ in the following ways. 1) The Eel River bird had a single white scapular on its right side. This bird lacks the white scapular feather. and 2) the Eel River bird had 3 white patches on the nape. This bird showed only two. For these reasons, I believe it is a different individual!

As I mentioned initially it was with a Marbled Murrelet as we tried to get closer for photos the two birds seperated easily and neither appeared upset. Often Marbled Murrelet pairs will call and be reluctant to separate and will often fly off together.

Describe the bird’s song and call, if given, including method of delivery (i.e. from perch, in flight, duration):
Silent in our viewing period

What is your prior experience with this and similarly-appearing species? ?????
Light conditions and Optical equipment used
bright fog Zeiss 10x25

Approximate distance
at the closest 35m and the farthest 120m and maybe 50m on average
Other observers who saw the bird with you
Moe Morrissette, and Vince Slabe
Other observers who saw the bird independentlyNone
If photographed, type of equipment (please attach digital images to your email):
Moe has a digital point and shoot. I have a Sony HD video cameraList books, illustrations, recordings, other birders, etc. consulted and how this influenced your identification:?????
a) at time of observation: none
b) after observation: noneReporting observer:
Elias Elias

Date report was written:
August 11, 2009

Literature cited:
Additional Information: