Episode 3: The Independent Order of Marbled Murrelet Detectives

Marbled murrelets are not as famous as they should be. 

Paul Harris Jones in his home with a painting of a marbled murrelet. Sophie Woodrooffe Photo

There are a few reasons for that. They’re mysterious and secretive. Their habitat is super niche. They’re not visually striking or ubiquitous. 

Sure, they’ve got charisma (they resemble tiny penguins!) but the marbled murrelet’s brand recognition limps far behind such aviary icons as the loon or eagle.

But don’t be fooled by their b-list celebrity status. 

They’ve got a lot going for them, really. In fact, marbled murrelets have garnered a cult following among environmentalists in the Pacific Northwest. 

They’re what’s known as old-growth obligates. And that is the key to their power. 

One example of that power can be found right here, on the Sunshine Coast. 

Thirty years ago a small group of volunteers spent years trying to do the near-impossible – find a nest actively used by a pair of the birds. 

The outcome of their efforts resonates to this day.

Show Notes

Paul Jones wrote The Marbled Murrelets of the Caren Range and Middlepoint Bight

Maria Mudd Ruth wrote Rare Bird: Pursuing the Mystery of the Marbled Murrelet

Learn more about Kim Nelson’s contributions to the study of marbled murrelets

Marbled murrelets are also linked to Clayoquot Sound protests

Coast News story about marbled murrelets and the Caren Range

More about Volker Bahn’s research

Alan Burger’s contributions to the study of marbled murrelets


Marbled murrelet field recordings by Thomas G. Sander from the  Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology

3-Square-Miles is a documentary produced by Suzanne Wilson for Coast Cable 11

Varied thrush sound effect by BBC Sound Effects

Music by James Bowers, Blue Dot Sessions and Volker Bahn

Special thanks to Dr. Alan Burger and Steve Sleep for research and archival help

Rachel Sanders, Lorna Richards and Sean Eckford assisted with story

Website and graphics by Laura Service