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Murres - Better Swimmers Than Flyers

Murres are members of a group of black and white, duckshaped seabirds called auks. They spend almost all their lives at sea, and dive beneath the surface to feed on fish, squid, krill, and even marine worms.

They're deep divers. Dives of 100 meters / 330 feet appear to be common - that's over the length of a football field straight down!

Unlike ducks that propel themselves underwater with their feet, murres flap their half-open wings like they're flying. It's harder to move through water than through air, so to support all that flapping, murres have short strong wings - and very large breast muscles (making them meaty birds for the dinner table).

Click for more information. And their great travellers. Murres travel up to 6000 km / 3730 miles a year in migration, covering up to 1000 km / 620 miles of that distance by swimming.

With all of that travelling, you'd think they were great flyers, but they're not! Their wings are smaller than other birds of their size, so they have to flap very fast to take off. Their rapid flapping makes them appear to fly very fast, but their speed is only about 60 km / 40 miles per hour.

Because their tails are so short, murres use their feet as rudders for flying - spreading them apart for complicated maneouvres. They can't turn sharply and sometimes have difficulty landing on stormy days, often bumping into the cliffs and needing several attempts to successfully land on a ledge.

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