Marbled Murrelet

nesting marbled murrelet

Nesting marbled murrelet, photograph taken by Tom Hamer.

The marbled murrelet (Brachyramphus marmoratus) is listed as one of the species of greatest concern in the Cedar River Watershed Habitat Conservation Plan. Marbled murrelets nest on large branches in the upper canopy of old trees and each day fly to the closest marine waters to collect food for their young. This flight can be up to 40 miles each way. The watershed (Regional Location of Cedar River Watershed pdf) provides some of the only old-growth forest east of the Puget Sound that is within the distance they can fly between their nest and their forage areas in the Sound. Read more about marbled murrelet on the Seattle Public Utilities Cedar River Biodiversity website.

Murrelet populations are influenced by several factors that are beyond our control as land managers. We cannot influence loss of old-growth forest habitat on a landscape scale in western Washington or factors at sea, such as decreased fish populations and pollution. What we can change is the forest habitat needed for nesting by marbled murrelets. So our goals are based on habitat, rather than population.


Our long-term goal, over the next 50 to 100 years, is to both maintain existing and provide new marbled murrelet nesting habitat in the watershed. Our specific objectives include:

  1. Protect and maintain all existing old-growth forest habitat
  2. Accelerate the development of old-growth forest characteristics (e.g., large branches, moss or mistletoe on branches) in young second-growth forests


What are we doing for Marbled Murrelet?

Upland forest habitat protection and enhancement projects will benefit many species dependent on old-growth forest habitat, including marbled murrelets, northern spotted owls, and northern goshawk.

Protect All Watershed Habitats
Management of the watershed serves to avoid or minimize adverse effects of major events such as fire, spills of toxic materials, invasive species, and excessive human disturbance. This helps to maintain all existing old-growth for marbled murrelet nesting and allows second-growth forest to develop nesting habitat on its own through passive restoration. View more information on habitat protection.

Upland Forest Habitat Restoration
Upland forest habitat enhancement projects are designed as active restoration projects to accelerate old-growth forest conditions in second-growth forest generated after clearcut logging. Creating more growing space for trees means the large trees with large branches required for murrelet nesting will develop more quickly than they would through passive restoration alone. View more on our upland forest habitat restoration program.

Upland Forest Habitat Research and Monitoring
The entire forest will be monitored through a system of permanent vegetation sample plots to document how habitat is developing through time, and how habitat development under passive restoration compares with that under active restoration. View more about our upland forest habitat research and monitoring program.