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THE COMMON MURRE RESOURCE FILES

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RESOURCE FILES FOR THE COMMON MURRE

 

The common murre is 38–46 cm (15–18 in) in length with a 61–73 cm (24–29 in) wingspan. Male and female are indistinguishable in the field. The nominate subspecies (U. a. aalge) is black on the head, back and wings, and has white underparts. It has thin dark pointed bill and a small rounded dark tail. After the pre-basic moult, the face is white with a dark spur behind the eye. Birds of the subspecies U. a. albionis are dark brown rather than black, most obviously so in colonies in southern Britain. Legs are grey and the bill is dark grey. Occasionally, adults are seen with yellow/grey legs. Some individuals in the North Atlantic, known as "bridled guillemots", have a white ring around the eye extending back as a white line. This is not a distinct subspecies, but a polymorphism that becomes more common the farther north the birds breed—perhaps character displacement with the northerly thick-billed murre, which has a white bill-stripe but no bridled morph. The white is highly contrasting. The chicks are downy with blackish feathers on top and white below. By 12 days old, contour feathers are well developed in areas except for the head. At 15 days, facial feathers show the dark eyestripe against the white throat and cheek.
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