Little Auk

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Little Auk
Missing image

Scientific classification
Species:A. alle
Binomial name
Alle alle
(Linnaeus, 1758)

The Little Auk, or Dovekie, Alle alle, is a small auk, the only member of the genus Alle (Link, 1806). It breeds on islands in the high Arctic. There are two subspecies: A. a. alle breeds in Greenland, Iceland, Novaya Zemlya and Spitzbergen, and A. a. polaris on Franz Josef Land.

Their breeding habitat is coastal mountainsides, where they have huge colonies. They nest in crevices or beneath large rocks, usually laying just one egg. They move south in winter into northern areas of the north Atlantic. Late autumn storms may carry them south of their normal wintering areas, or into the North Sea.

This is the only Atlantic auk of its size, half the size of the Atlantic Puffin at 19-21 cm in length, with a 34-38 cm wingspan. Adult birds are black on the head, neck, back and wings with white underparts. The bill is very short and stubby. They have a small rounded black tail. The lower face and fore neck become white in winter.

The flight is direct, with fast whirring wing beats due to the short wings. These birds forage for food like other auks, by swimming underwater. They mainly eat crustaceans especially copepods, but also other small invertebrates along with small fish. They have the habit to collect in large swarms before leaving there breeding rocks out to sea for food and when coming back before settling down.

Missing image
Little Auks on Svalbard

Little Auks produce a variety of twitters and cackling calls at the breeding colonies, but are silent at sea.

Large numbers of Little Auks have been killed in several oil-spill incidents. Over-fishing has little effect, because of their mainly crustaceans prey, but climate changes (warming) in Southern Greenland and Iceland seems to be the reason for the decreasing populations there. The Glaucous Gull and the Arctic Fox are the main predators on Little Auks, and in some cases the Polar Bear has also been reported to feed on their eggs (Kjell Isaksen, Maria V. Gavrilo, 2000)da:Søkonge gl:Arao piro eo:Malgranda aŭko


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