Graduate Student Presents on the Kittlitz’s Murrelet

Kittlitz's Murrelet. M. Reid / Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve
Kittlitz’s Murrelet. M. Reid / Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve

Kayla Desroches/KMXT

A graduate student and a group of college students just wrapped up a season of studying a rare seabird on Kodiak Island.

Tim Knudson, a seasonal employee at the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge, is working on his master’s degree at Southern Illinois University and says he’s on his fourth year researching the Kittlitz’s murrelet on the southwest end of the island.

The seabird is also known as a kimu.

“For birds we use an alpha code to basically give a species a short-handed name, so for Kittlitz’s murrelet… Kittlitz’s K.I. and murrelet M.U., so we call it a kimu. Their closest relative the marbeled murrelet is also known as the mamu.”

Knudson says the kimu population declined steadily between 1989 and 2000, and most of their numbers are located in Alaska. The rest are in eastern Russia.

He explains the kimu lays a single egg away from predators and nests in remote areas. On Kodiak Island, they choose lower elevations, whereas in other areas researchers might need climbing gear or helicopters to study them.

“They’d lay a single egg in a rocky dish and they incubate that egg for about 30 days, and after incubation, the egg hatches, they brood, the adult sits on the chick for anywhere from 24 to 48 hours or so, and basically the adults bring a single fish back from the ocean.”

He says that period can last anywhere from 24 to 35 days.

Knudson presented the team’s findings alongside bio technician Katie Stoner at the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center Wednesday.

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