Alcid

Atlantic Puffin – Fratercula arctica

This will be somewhat of a long blog, I will be discussing the alcid family and locations where I have photographed them.

 

Here is an excerpt from Wikipedia. “An alcid is a bird of the family Alcidae in the order Charadriiformes. The alcid family includes the murres, guillemots, auklets, puffins, and murrelets.

 

Apart from the extinct great auk, all auks are notable for their ability to “fly” underwater as well as in the air. Although they are excellent swimmers and divers, their walking appears clumsy.

 

Several species have different common names in Europe and North America. The guillemots of Europe are referred to as murres in North America if they occur in both continents, and the little auk is referred to as the dovekie.

 

Auks are superficially similar to penguins having black-and-white colors, upright posture and some of their habits. Nevertheless, they are not closely related to penguins but instead are believed to be an example of moderate convergent evolution. Auks are monomorphic (males and females are similar in appearance).

 

Extant alicids range in size from the least auklet, at 85 g (3 oz) and 15 cm (5.9 in), to the thick-billed murre, at 1 kg (2.2 lb) and 45 cm (18 in). Due to their short wings, auks have to flap their wings very quickly to fly.

 

Although not to the extent of penguins, auks have largely sacrificed flight, and also mobility on land, in exchange for swimming ability; their wings are a compromise between the best possible design for diving and the bare minimum needed for flying. This varies by subfamily, the Uria guillemots (including the razorbill) and murrelets being the most efficient under the water, whereas the puffins and auklets are better adapted for flying and walking.

 

The feeding behavior of auks is often compared to that of penguins; both groups are wing-propelled pursuit divers. In the region where auks live, their only seabird competition is cormorants (which are dive-powered by their strong feet). In areas where the two groups feed on the same prey, the auks tend to feed further offshore. Strong-swimming murres hunt faster schooling fish, whereas auklets take slower-moving krill. Time depth recorders on auks have shown that they can dive as deep as 100 m in the case of Uria guillemots, 40 m for the Cepphus guillemots and 30 m for the auklets.

 

Auks are pelagic birds, spending the majority of their adult life on the open sea and going ashore only for breeding, although some species — like the common guillemot — spend a significant part of the year defending their nesting spot from others.

 

Auks are monogamous and tend to form lifelong pairs. They typically lay a single egg, and they are philopatric (they use the nesting site year after year).

 

Some species, such as the Uria guillemots, nest in large colonies on cliff edges; others, like the Cepphus guillemots, breed in small groups on rocky coasts; and the puffins, auklets and some murrelets nest in burrows. All species except the Brachyramphus murrelets are colonial.

 

Today, as in the past, the Alcids are restricted to cooler northern waters. Their ability to spread further south is limited since their prey hunting method, pursuit diving becomes less efficient in warmer waters. The speed at which small fish (which along with krill are the alcid major food items) can swim doubles as the temperature increases from 5 to 15 °C (41 to 59 °F), with no corresponding increase in speed for the bird. The southernmost acids, in California and Mexico, can survive there because of cold upwellings. The current lack of alcid in the Atlantic (6 species), compared to the Pacific (19–20 species) is considered to be because of extinctions to the Atlantic Alcids; the fossil record shows there were many more species in the Atlantic during the Pliocene. Alcids also tend to be restricted to continental shelf waters and breed on few oceanic islands”.

 

Of the 24 species of Alcids, I have seen and photographed 13 of the species on both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans sides of North America. I have not traveled to Iceland or other locations in Eurasia where alcid are found.

 

The legend for the map below is “1 St. Paul Island, Pribilof’s, Alaska; 2 Lake Clark National Park Alaska; 3 offshore Pacific Ocean California; 4 Baja Sur Mexico|; 5 Newfoundland, Witless Bay, Elliston, Cape St. Mary’s Ecological Park; 6 Machias Seal Island, Maine/Canada; 7 Massachusetts, Provincetown, Salisbury, Cape Cod Canal.

Thick-billed Murre (Uria lomvia)

Thick-billed Murre (Uria lomvia), in winter plumage, swimming in Provincetown Harbor
Thick-billed Murre (Uria lomvia
Thick-billed Murre (Uria lomvia

Atlantic Puffin – Fratercula arctica

Atlantic Puffin – Fratercula arctica

Black Guillemot (Cepphus grylle)

Black Guillemot (Cepphus grylle) Winter Plumage
Black Guillemot (Cepphus grylle)

Casisin’s Auklet – Ptychoramphus aleuticus) not the best image but the boat had a hard time trying to track this auklet

Casisin’s Auklet – Ptychoramphus aleuticus)

Common Murre – Uria aalge

Common Murre – Uria aalge
Common Murre – Uria aalge
Common Murre – Uria aalge

Crested Auklet (Aethia cristatella)

Crested Auklet (Aethia cristatella)
Crested Auklet (Aethia cristatella)

Dovekie (Alle alle)

Dovekie (Alle alle) swimming in Provincetown Harbor
Dovekie (Alle alle)Winter plumage

Horned Puffin – Fratercula corniculata

Horned Puffin – Fratercula corniculata

Parakeet Auklet (Aethia psittacula)

Parakeet Auklet (Aethia psittacula)
Parakeet Auklet (Aethia psittacula)

Razorbill – Alca torda

Razorbill – Alca torda

Thick-billed Murre (Uria lomvia)

Thick-billed Murre (Uria lomvia), in winter plumage, swimming in Provincetown Harbor
Thick-billed Murre (Uria lomvia)

Tufted Puffin -Fratercula cirrhata

Xantus’s Murrelet- Synthilboramphus hypoleucus

Tufted Puffin -Fratercula cirrhata
Xantus’s Murrelet- Synthilboramphus hypoleucus

Xantus’s Murrelet- Synthilboramphus hypoleucus