Photo: Milo Burcham/AlaskaStock/Corbis

Crested Auklet

Aethia cristatella

A chunky seabird of Alaskan waters, with a loose crest that hangs down in front of its face. Gregarious at all seasons, often feeds in dense concentrations, large numbers swimming and diving together in deep waters. Its nesting colonies are noisy places, with birds honking, barking, and whistling from their secure crevices among the rock piles. Crested Auklets usually fly in tightly packed flocks, and sometimes engage in mass circling maneuvers in the air near their colonies.
Conservation status North American population estimated at 3 million in late 1980s, but accurate censusing very difficult. Probably has declined in Aleutians because of introduced foxes and rats. Vulnerable to oil spills and other pollution.
Family Auks, Murres, Puffins
Habitat Open sea; nests in colonies on sea cliffs. Often over deep water far from land, but may forage near shore where there is turbulence caused by upwellings, tide rips, or tidal flow in passes between islands. Nests on rocky islands among boulders, talus slopes, lava flows, cliffs with many openings and crevices.
A chunky seabird of Alaskan waters, with a loose crest that hangs down in front of its face. Gregarious at all seasons, often feeds in dense concentrations, large numbers swimming and diving together in deep waters. Its nesting colonies are noisy places, with birds honking, barking, and whistling from their secure crevices among the rock piles. Crested Auklets usually fly in tightly packed flocks, and sometimes engage in mass circling maneuvers in the air near their colonies.
Photo Gallery
  • adults, breeding
  • adult, winter
Feeding Behavior

Forages while swimming below the surface. Underwater behavior poorly known, but maximum dive depth thought to be about 100' below surface. Often forages in flocks.


Eggs

one. White, becoming nest-stained. Incubation is by both sexes, 29-40 days, usually about 34. Young: Both parents feed young (although female may do more), bringing back food in throat pouch. Young is noisy, making peeping sounds when parents present and whistling when they are absent. Age at first flight 27-36 days; young comes out of nest for a few days before to exercise wings.


Young

Both parents feed young (although female may do more), bringing back food in throat pouch. Young is noisy, making peeping sounds when parents present and whistling when they are absent. Age at first flight 27-36 days; young comes out of nest for a few days before to exercise wings.

Diet

Mostly small crustaceans. Diet not well known, but includes many small crustaceans that occur in swarms (especially euphausiid shrimp and copepods), also probably small numbers of fish and squid.


Nesting

First breeds at age of 3 years or older. In courtship, male puffs out chest, points bill up, and makes honking sounds; female approaches, and pair engages in bill-touching, preening each other's neck feathers, intertwining necks. Nest site is in deep crevice in cliff or among boulders, may be several feet below surface of rock pile. Nest is shallow depression in soil or pebbles at bottom of crevice.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Migration

Undoubtedly migrates from northern colonies, which become surrounded in winter by solid ice. Winters regularly around Kodiak Island, Alaska, outside known breeding range, and Siberian birds winter to northern Japan. Has strayed to British Columbia, and once to north Atlantic near Iceland.

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Migration

Undoubtedly migrates from northern colonies, which become surrounded in winter by solid ice. Winters regularly around Kodiak Island, Alaska, outside known breeding range, and Siberian birds winter to northern Japan. Has strayed to British Columbia, and once to north Atlantic near Iceland.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
A variety of loud honking and grunting notes on breeding grounds; otherwise silent.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
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