XANTUS’ MURRELETS (Synthliboramphus hypoleucus)[Brachyramphus hypoleucus] nest on six of the eight California Channel Islands. By far, the largest breeding population is found on Santa Barbara Island where they nest during the spring in burrows on the steep hillsides and cliffs. Numbering a few thousand, this is the largest known breeding population of Xantus’s murrelets in the world. When the chicks are 48 hours old, they instinctively leave their nests in the middle of the night and tumble down into the ocean. There they meet their parents and swim out to sea where they will spend the rest of their lives, returning to land only during nesting season. Xantus's murrelets are not known from San Nicolas or Santa Rosa islands. The species is named for Louis John XANTUS DE VESEY, Hungarian-born naturalist who sailed for America in 1851.
As of August 2012, Xantus's Murrelet has been split into Scripps's Murrelet and Guadalupe Murrelet. The Scripps's Murrelet (Synthliboramphus scrippsi) breeds within Channel Islands National Park, while the Guadalupe Murrelet (Synthliboramphus hypoleucus) visits after breeding season. However, there are unconfirmed accounts of breeding on Santa Barbara Island. The face on Guadalupe Murrelet has the eye surrounded by white, making identification easier.
The Scripps's murrelet is a small bird. At under 10 inches in length, it is slightly smaller than an American robin. Adults have a 15-inch wingspan and weigh only six ounces. Black above and white on the chin, throat, and belly, Scripps's murrelet is very similar in appearance to Craveri's murrelet, a species that shares a similar range. The two are most easily separated in flight by the distinct white underwing of the Scripp's.
- Scripps's murrelet come ashore only to breed, remaining at sea the rest of the year.
- Channel Islands National Park has 80% of the U.S. breeding population of Scripps's murrelets.
- Santa Barbara Island has the largest Scripps's murrelet colony in the United States, and possibly the world.
- Scripps's murrelets nest primarily in natural rock crevices along steep edges around the periphery of islands.
- Females lay two eggs containing 22% of her body weight which are incubated for about a month.
- The chicks emerge from eggs fully feathered and well developed.
- The chicks spend fewer than 48 hours at the nest site and are not fed.
- A Scripps's murrelet chick will leave the nest for the open ocean at two days old tumbling down steep slopes and cliffs to reunite with parents in the water.
- The Scripps's murrelet was listed as a threatened species by the state of California on December 22, 2004.
|Anacapa Island||H. B. Webster||WFVZ||May 15, 1910||WFVZ-80896||Brachyramphus hypoleucus||Eggs|
|Anacapa Island (Cat Rock)||H. C. Burt||WFVZ||May 15, 1911||WFVZ-80897||Brachyramphus hypoleucus||Eggs|
|Anacapa Island (Cat Rock)||S. B. Peyton||WFVZ||May 12, 1912||WFVZ-113533||Brachyramphus hypoleucus||Eggs|
|Anacapa Island||G. K. Snyder||WFVZ||July 5, 1912||WFVZ-47541||Brachyramphus hypoleucus||Eggs|
|Anacapa Island||A. J. Van Rossem||CAS||May 21, 1913||CAS-75199||Synthliboramphus hypoleucus scrippsi||Birds|
|Anacapa Island||A. J. Van Rossem||DMNH||May 21, 1913||DMNH-6097||Synthliboramphus hypoleucus scrippsi||Birds|
|Anacapa Island||A. J. Van Rossem||MVZ||May 21, 1913||MVZ-101554||Synthliboramphus hypoleucus scrippsi||Birds|
|Anacapa Island||A. J. Van Rossem||UCLA||May 21, 1913||UCLA-141||Synthliboramphus hypoleucus scrippsi||Birds|
|Anacapa Island||A. J. Van Rossem||UCLA||May 21, 1913||UCLA-142||Synthliboramphus hypoleucus scrippsi||Birds|
|Anacapa Island||A. J. Van Rossem||NMNH||May 21, 1913||USNM-263431||Synthliboramphus hypoleucus scrippsi||Birds|
|Anacapa Island||A. J. Van Rossem||WFVZ||May 21, 1913||WFVZ-11324||Brachyramphus hypoleucus||Eggs|
|Anacapa Island||A. J. Van Rossem||WFVZ||May 21, 1913||WFVZ-11325||Brachyramphus hypoleucus||Eggs|
|Anacapa Island||A. J. Van Rossem||WFVZ||May 21, 1913||WFVZ-11326||Brachyramphus hypoleucus||Eggs|
|Anacapa Island||A. J. Van Rossem||CAS||May 23, 1913||CAS-75201||Synthliboramphus hypoleucus scrippsi||Birds|
|Anacapa Island||D. R. Dickey||YPM||May 25, 1913||YPM-145996||Synthliboramphus hypoleucus||Birds|
|Anacapa Island (Cat Rock)||D. R. Dickey||WFVZ||May 25, 1913||WFVZ-11327||Brachyramphus hypoleucus||Eggs|
|Anacapa Island||A. J. Van Rossem||WFVZ||May 25, 1913||WFVZ-11328||Brachyramphus hypoleucus||Eggs|
|Anacapa Island||A. J. Van Rossem||WFVZ||May 25, 1913||WFVZ-11329||Brachyramphus hypoleucus||Eggs|
|Anacapa Island||S. B. Peyton||PSM||June 11, 1915||PSM-14737||Synthliboramphus hypoleucus||Eggs|
|Anacapa Island (Cat Rock)||S. B. Peyton||WFVZ||June 11, 1915||WFVZ-80895||Brachytamphus hypoleucus||Eggs|
|Anacapa Island (Cat Rock)||M. C. Badger||WFVZ||May 26, 1917||WFVZ-46438||Brachyramphus hypoleucus||Eggs|
|Anacapa Island||L. G. Peyton||FMNH||May 19, 1919||FMNH-159084||Brachyramphus hypoleucus||Eggs|
|Anacapa Island (Cat Rock)||Frank Harpold||WFVZ||March 14, 1927||WFVZ-92240||Brachyramphus hypoleucus||Eggs|
|Anacapa Island (Cat Rock)||Frank Harpold||WFVZ||March 14, 1927||WFVZ-192146||Brachyramphus hypoleucus||Eggs|
|Anacapa Island||S. B. Peyton||WFVZ||May 20, 1928||WFVZ-32106||Brachyramphus hypoleucus||Eggs|
|Anacapa Island||A. J. Van Rossem||WFVZ||February 24, 1929||WFVZ-11324||Brachyramphus hypoleucus||Eggs|
|Anacapa Island||J. E. Green||SDNHM||May 6, 1938||SDNHM-17932||Synthliboramphus hypoleucus||Eggs|
|Anacapa Island||J. E. Green||SDNHM||May 6, 1938||SDNHM-17933||Synthliboramphus hypoleucus||Eggs|
|Anacapa Island||J. E. Green||SDNHM||May 6, 1938||SDNHM-17934||Synthliboramphus hypoleucus||Eggs|
SAN CLEMENTE ISLAND
1984 San Clemente Island: “Seal Cove and China Point both offer good breeding habitat for Xantus' murrelets (Endomychura hypoleuca), although there is only one breeding record (Jorgensen pers. com.).” Recovery Plan for the endangered and threatened species of the California Channel Islands published by U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Portland, Oregon 1984.
|San Clemente Island||J. T. Brollini||LACM||July 4, 2001||LACM-111806||Synthliboramphus hypoleucus scrippsi||Bird|
SAN MIGUEL ISLAND
1939: San Miguel Island: “Xantus' Murrelets (Endomychura hypoleuca) were not recorded from San Miguel Island until April 1939 when Sumner (1939) saw one bird on the water .03 km off Prince Island. Breeding was documented in 1968 when an incubating bird was found on Castle Rock, and a chick and six broken eggshells were found on Prince Island. [Marine Mammal and Seabird Survey of the Southern California Bight, Volume 3, Issue 3. University of California Santa Cruz et al., July 1978]”
SANTA BARBARA ISLAND
1897 Santa Barbara Island: “Brachyramphus hypoleucus—Xantus's Murrelet. Common out in the channel between San Pedro and Catalina Island A specimen was secured May 13, near Santa Barbara, and others seen... Entire List of Water-Birds Observed. [March 26-April 4; May 11-June 9]. The party [of the second trip] consisted of Joseph Grinnell, who had immediate charge of the expedition, and gave special attention to the ornithology and entomology of the islands; Horace Gaylord, who collected mammals; and Harry Gaylord and James Brittan [Britton] who devoted their time to archaeology. The party left San Pedro harbor May 11 in a large fishing schooner... [returning June 9, 1897]”
Grinnell, Joseph The Islands of Santa Barbara, San Nicolas and San Clemente, in the Spring of 1897 Pasadena Academy of Sciences Publication No. 1, August, 1897 (26 pages).
|Santa Barbara Island||J. G. Cooper||NMNH||May 31, 1863||USNM-19106||Synthliboramphus hypoleucus||Eggs|
|Santa Barbara Island||J. E. Law||NMNH||March 29, 1918||USNM-489866||Synthliboramphus hypoleucus||Eggs|
SANTA CRUZ ISLAND
1907 Santa Cruz Island: “Brachyramphus hypoleucus. Xantus Murrelet. One taken by Mr. Willett about one mile out from Cochas Pietres [Coches Prietos].” [“At 11:30 p. m., November 19, 1907, my father (H. Linton), Mr. George Willett, and myself left San Pedro harbor in a dilapidated fishing smack and in company with a crawfisherman, one “Cold-foot” Jorgensen. We arrived off the south end of Santa Cruz Island at 10:30 the following day during a stiff norwester. For various reasons we were unable to make camp until the 22nd. It may not be amiss to state here that twice during the blow we were nearly wrecked: once while at anchor in Potatoe Harbor, a broken anchor allowing the boat to drift within the breaker line and nearly onto the rocks. In this instance the timely arrival of Willett and H. Linton in a small boat, saved the day, and incidentally the fishing smack. At another time (the engine having broken down) we were blown nearly onto the rocks of Anacapa Island; but with father at the wheel and Willett and I on the “sheet” we managed to hold her off. I mention the foregoing, and the many sleepless nights spent on the rocky shores, “running” the surf several times each day (with attendant duckings), etc., merely as a warning to those who seem inclined to believe a field naturalists ’ life “strewn with roses”. (Its ’ generally strewn with cacti!)”]
Linton, C. B. Notes from Santa Cruz Island] The Condor 10(3):124-129, May 1908
|Santa Cruz Island||George Willett||LACM||November 28, 1907||LACM-5039||Synthliboramphus hypoleucus scrippsi||Birds|
|Santa Cruz Island||M. C. Badger||WFVZ||May 20, 1920||WFVZ-92441||Brachyramphus hypoleucus||Eggs|
|Santa Cruz Island||M. C. Badger||WFVZ||May 20, 1928||WFVZ-192147||Brachyramphus hypoleucus||Eggs|
|Santa Cruz Island||M. C. Badger||WFVZ||May 20, 1928||WFVZ-992441||Brachyramphus hypoleucus scrippsi||Eggs|
|Santa Cruz Island||M. C. Badger||WFVZ||May 22, 1938||WFVZ-46435||Brachyramphus hypoleucus||Eggs|
|Santa Cruz Island||M. C. Badger||WFVZ||May 22, 1938||WFVZ-46437||Brachyramphus hypoleucus||Eggs|
|Santa Cruz Island||L. T. Stevens||SBMNH||May 25, 1941||SBMNH-22946||Synthliboramphus hypoleucus||Eggs|
|Santa Cruz Island||L. T. Stevens||SBMNH||May 25, 1941||SBMNH-250815||Synthliboramphus hypoleucus||Eggs|
|Islas Coronados||C. O. Reis||MVZ||June 2, 1915||MVZ-5816||Synthliboramphus hypoleucus scrippsi||Eggs|
|Islas Coronados||Irwin D. Nokes||WFVZ||June 3, 1915||WFVZ-22894||Brachyramphus hypoleucus||Eggs|
|Islas Coronados||Irwin D. Nokes||WFVZ||June 3, 1915||WFVZ-92443||Brachyramphus hypoleucus||Eggs|
|Islas Coronados||C. O. Reis||SDNHM||June 4, 1915||SDNHM-21825||Synthliboramphus scrippsi scrippsi||Birds|
|Islas Coronados||C. O. Reis||SDNHM||June 5, 1915||SDNHM-21824||Synthliboramphus scrippsi scrippsi||Birds|
|Islas Coronados||Irwin D. Nokes||WFVZ||June 5, 1915||WFVZ-45982||Brachyramphus hypoleucus||Eggs|
|Islas Coronados||Irwin D. Nokes||WFVZ||June 5, 1915||WFVZ-45983||Brachyramphus hypoleucus||Eggs|
|Islas Coronados||Irwin D. Nokes||WFVZ||June 5, 1915||WFVZ-45984||Brachyramphus hypoleucus||Eggs|
|Islas Coronados||Irwin D. Nokes||WFVZ||June 5, 1915||WFVZ-75907||Brachyramphus hypoleucus||Eggs|
|Islas Coronados||Irwin D. Nokes||WFVZ||June 5, 1915||WFVZ-75908||Brachyramphus hypoleucus||Eggs|
|Islas Coronados||Irwin D. Nokes||WFVZ||June 5, 1915||WFVZ-92442||Brachyramphus hypoleucus||Eggs|
|Islas Coronados||Irwin D. Nokes||WFVZ||June 5, 1915||WFVZ-92444||Brachyramphus hypoleucus||Eggs|
ISLAS SAN BENITO
|Islas San Benito||Chase Littlejohn||WFVZ||March 9, 1899||WFVZ-92420||Brachyramphus hypoleucus||Eggs|
|Islas San Benito||Chase Littlejohn||WFVZ||March 10, 1899||WFVZ-11165||Brachyramphus hypoleucus||Eggs|
In the News~
July 25, 1917 [SBMP]: “Island birds described by U. C. Interesting bulletin tells of beauties of archipelago... When the young Xantus murrelet first tries to swim in the sea at three or four days old, big fish devour a good many, despite the surprising aquatic skills of the fledglings.”