Male and female Common Murres look alike with a distinctive dark, slender bill and a black-and-white color pattern that makes many people mistake them for penguins. In fact, the murre’s range is far removed from that of their antarctic cousins, and they can be found all along the coastlines of the northern hemisphere.
The murre population in Oregon is estimated to be 250,000, representing approximately 60% of all seabirds that nest within the state’s boundaries. In Oregon, there are 24 known nesting sites which support this dense population. One well known site in Newport is at the Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area. When feeding, Common Murres form large rafts where they dive from the surface and “fly” underwater in pursuit of small fishes. They can stay submerged for an average of sixty seconds and have been known to dive to depths of 400 feet to snap up squid and fish with their sharp bills.
The open ocean or nesting on the tops of steep rocky cliffs and sea stacks. This makes them more visible than other auks and more vulnerable to winged predators.