Multi-state mark-recapture model to estimate survival of a dispersed-nesting seabird, the Kittlitz's Murrelet

Michelle L. Kissling, Paul M. Lukacs, Scott M. Gende, Stephen B. Lewis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


The Kittlitz's murrelet (Brachyramphus brevirostris) is a small, dispersed-nesting seabird that often occurs in glacially influenced marine waters of Alaska and eastern Russia during the breeding season. Owing to its association with glacial habitats and apparent population declines in some parts of its range, the Kittlitz's murrelet has been the subject of considerable conservation concern in recent years. We present the first-ever estimates of breeding season and annual survival of the Kittlitz's murrelet. We estimated survival by capturing 914 murrelets and radiotagging 191 of them in Icy Bay, Alaska, 2007-2012. We used a multi-state mark-recapture framework to estimate breeding season survival. Daily survival probabilities were similar in the 3 spatial states (Icy Bay, Gulf of Alaska, nest; range = 0.996-0.999), resulting in an overall 60-day breeding season survival probability of 0.89 (SE = 0.04). The only apparent source of fatality of Kittlitz's murrelets during the breeding season was avian predators, specifically bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) and peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus). We estimated mean apparent annual survival across all years as 0.80 (SE = 0.33) with a recapture probability of 0.079 (SE = 0.032), resulting in a 305-day non-breeding season survival probability of 0.90 (SE = 0.37). We found that survival was lower than expected based on life-history theory and allometry, and that fatality risk was greater in the breeding season compared to other parts of the year. Our results indicating low survival rates of Kittlitz's murrelets are consistent with the observed decline of 10% per annum in the local population of this species in Icy Bay. Published 2014. This article is a U.S. Government work and is in the public domain in the USA.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)20-30
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Wildlife Management
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015


  • Alaska
  • Brachyramphus
  • Kittlitz's murrelet
  • demography
  • mark-recapture
  • multi-state
  • seabird
  • survival


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