Photo: Allan Hopkins/Flickr Creative Commons

Dovekie

Alle alle

The smallest member of the auk family in the North Atlantic. Feeds on abundant tiny crustaceans in icy waters, and nests by the millions far above Arctic Circle, such as northwest Greenland; its center of abundance is farther north than that of any other auk. Small numbers come as far south as New England waters in winter, rarely farther, but the vast majority remain farther north. On the water, Dovekies bob about buoyantly; flocks fly low over the waves. Winter storms sometimes drive them close to the coast or even inland.
Conservation status Total population undoubtedly in millions, but hard to census and trends would be difficult to detect. Natives in Greenland and elsewhere harvest many for food, but this likely to have no impact on total population. Would be vulnerable to oil spills or other pollution in northern waters.
Family Auks, Murres, Puffins
Habitat Oceanic; offshore to pelagic. Usually in cold Arctic waters, often around edges of pack ice; may rest on ice. Even when moving farther south in winter, favors cold waters, avoiding warm currents. Often very far from land over deep water. Nests on northern coasts and islands on deeply fissured cliffs, talus slopes, boulder piles.
The smallest member of the auk family in the North Atlantic. Feeds on abundant tiny crustaceans in icy waters, and nests by the millions far above Arctic Circle, such as northwest Greenland; its center of abundance is farther north than that of any other auk. Small numbers come as far south as New England waters in winter, rarely farther, but the vast majority remain farther north. On the water, Dovekies bob about buoyantly; flocks fly low over the waves. Winter storms sometimes drive them close to the coast or even inland.
Photo Gallery
  • adults, breeding
  • adult, nonbreeding
  • adult, nonbreeding
Feeding Behavior

Forages by diving and swimming underwater, evidently using both wings and feet. Does most foraging just below surface.


Eggs

One. Pale blue-green, sometimes with buff and brown spots. Incubation is by both sexes, 28-31 days. Young: Both parents feed nestling, bringing back food in throat pouch; young is brooded continuously for first 2-4 days after hatching. Young leaves nest 23-30 days after hatching, usually departing in evening or at night, flying out to sea, alone or accompanied by adults.


Young

Both parents feed nestling, bringing back food in throat pouch; young is brooded continuously for first 2-4 days after hatching. Young leaves nest 23-30 days after hatching, usually departing in evening or at night, flying out to sea, alone or accompanied by adults.

Diet

Small crustaceans. Feeds almost entirely on small crustaceans, mainly very small species that occur in swarms near surface in cold waters, including calanoid copepods, mysids, amphipods, euphausiids, others. Also eats small numbers of fish, mollusks, marine worms, plus bits of algae.


Nesting

Breeds in colonies; northernmost colonies may be very large. On arrival at colony in spring, flocks may circle over site for hours, giving trilled calls. Members of pair display by bowing rapidly and repeatedly, wagging head from side to side, touching bills. Nest site is well hidden among rocks or in crevice in cliff; same pair may use site in subsequent years. Nest is thin layer of pebbles, sometimes with bits of grass or lichen.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
Learn more about these drawings.

Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Migration

Many remain in winter as far north as open water permits, around leads in pack ice north of Arctic Circle; southernmost big concentrations in winter are on Grand Banks of Newfoundland. Smaller numbers irregularly come south to waters off New England, small invasions rarely reaching Florida. Major winter storms sometimes drive numbers inland in northeast.

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Migration

Many remain in winter as far north as open water permits, around leads in pack ice north of Arctic Circle; southernmost big concentrations in winter are on Grand Banks of Newfoundland. Smaller numbers irregularly come south to waters off New England, small invasions rarely reaching Florida. Major winter storms sometimes drive numbers inland in northeast.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
Squeaking notes.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
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How climate change could affect this bird's range

In the broadest and most detailed study of its kind, Audubon scientists have used hundreds of thousands of citizen-science observations and sophisticated climate models to predict how birds in the U.S. and Canada will react to climate change.

Learn more

Read more: climate.audubon.org
Auks, Murres, Puffins Upright-perching Water Birds

Dovekie

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season.

More on reading these maps.

Each map is a visual guide to where a particular bird species may find the climate conditions it needs to survive in the future. We call this the bird’s “climatic range.”

The colors indicate the season in which the bird may find suitable conditions— blue for winter, yellow for summer (breeding), and green for where they overlap (indicating their presence year-round).

The darker the shaded area, the more likely it is the bird species will find suitable climate conditions to survive there.

The outline of the approximate current range for each season remains fixed in each frame, allowing you to compare how the range will expand, contract, or shift in the future.

The first frame of the animation shows where the bird can find a suitable climate today (based on data from 2000). The next three frames predict where this bird’s suitable climate may shift in the future—one frame each for 2020, 2050, and 2080.

You can play or pause the animation with the orange button in the lower left, or select an individual frame to study by clicking on its year.

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season. More on reading these maps.
Winter
Summer

Winter Range
Summer Range
Both Seasons
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