Photo: Dr. Yuri Artukhin/Vireo

Whiskered Auklet

Aethia pygmaea

Poorly known to most birders, the Whiskered Auklet is a small seabird confined to remote areas of the Aleutian Islands, Alaska (as well as the Commander and Kurile islands off eastern Asia). Relatively scarce and secretive, it is active around its nesting colonies mostly at night. Unlike most auks, it seldom ventures more than a few miles away from shore. One odd distinction shared with its relative, Crested Auklet: the plumage has a noticeable odor like citrus.
Conservation status Total population probably very low compared to most auks. Attracted to lights at night, may be killed by crashing into lighted fishing boats. Accidental introduction of rats to nesting islands may be biggest threat.
Family Auks, Murres, Puffins
Habitat Ocean, tide-rips, rocky coasts. Usually at sea within a few miles of islands, in relatively shallow water. Favors rough water where currents converge, or where tidal currents race across shallows or through narrow passes between islands. Nests on islands among rocks or cliffs.
Poorly known to most birders, the Whiskered Auklet is a small seabird confined to remote areas of the Aleutian Islands, Alaska (as well as the Commander and Kurile islands off eastern Asia). Relatively scarce and secretive, it is active around its nesting colonies mostly at night. Unlike most auks, it seldom ventures more than a few miles away from shore. One odd distinction shared with its relative, Crested Auklet: the plumage has a noticeable odor like citrus.
Photo Gallery
  • adult, breeding
  • adults, breeding
Feeding Behavior

Forages while swimming underwater. Depth of dives unknown, but usually feeds in fairly shallow water.


Eggs

one. Dull white. Incubation is by both sexes, roughly 35-36 days. Young: both parents feed young, visiting nests at night, bringing food back in throat pouch. Age of young bird at departure from nest not well known, may be about 40 days. Fledgling departs by flying away from nest site at night.


Young

both parents feed young, visiting nests at night, bringing food back in throat pouch. Age of young bird at departure from nest not well known, may be about 40 days. Fledgling departs by flying away from nest site at night.

Diet

Small crustaceans. Diet not well known, primarily small crustaceans including copepods, euphausiid shrimp, amphipods; also marine worms, mollusks. May concentrate on copepods in summer, euphausiids in winter.


Nesting

Breeds in colonies, not as densely packed as in related small auks. Active at colonies mostly at night, especially when not nesting in association with other species. Courtship behavior not well known, includes pairs calling in duet. Nest sites in small openings in talus slopes, boulder piles, or crevices in cliffs, sometimes in areas of soil mixed with rock. No nest built, egg laid on bare rock or soil.

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

Migration

Apparently permanent resident of waters near its nesting islands.

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Migration

Apparently permanent resident of waters near its nesting islands.

Songs and Calls
A whining me-ow.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
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