The Common Murre (Uria aalge) lives in the arctic and subarctic regions of the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. The birds breed in colonies at rocky shores with occasionally more than 400 000 individuals! At these places the birds sit side-by-side and lay their eggs on the bare ground. The fledglings leave the nest after around 20 days and head for the sea. However, at this stage the young birds cannot fly and instead jump more than 50 m into the ocean underneath the cliff ledges! Once in the water, they swim and dive, but need another few weeks until they are able to take off from the water.
The Common Murre feeds predominantly on fish which is caught while swimming in the ocean. To this end, the birds use their wings for propulsion (similar to penguins) and dive for several minutes with depths of more than 150 m having been recorded.
The only breeding colony of the Common Murre in Central Europe is situated on the tiny German island Helgoland in the North Sea. Here the birds can be seen from a close distance together with hundreds of breeding Northern Gannets and Black-legged Kittiwakes, as well as the much rarer Razorbill and Northern Fulmar. I visited the island and its sea bird colony in May 2014 and during this visit, I was also lucky enough to spot some of the few “bridled murres” which are individuals with a white ring around the eye.