Birds of the World

COAST BIRDS
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WORLD BIRDS
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ANECDOTES

  Auks
 
 
 

TRAITS
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Totipalmate Swm

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Pici
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PASSERINES
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      Broadbills
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 OSCINES
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Charadriiformes / Alcae - Auks
 
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Shorebirds, Charadriiformes
Pterocli - Sandgrouse
Charadrii - Shorebirds
Families: Seedsnipe, Plains-wanderer, Thick-knees, Plovers and Lapwings, Oystercatchers,
    IbisbillStilts and Avocets, Painted Snipe, Jacanas, Magellanic Plover, Sheathbills,
    Sandpipers, Phalaropes
Lari - Gulls, Terns, Skimmers
Families: Crab Plovers, Pratiincoles and Coursers, Jaegers and Skuas, Gulls, Terns, Skimmers
Alcae - Auks
Families: Auks
 
Species:   
Pacific Golden-Plover, Southern Lapwing, Blackish Oystercatcher,
American Black Oystercatcher
, Silver Gull, Western Gull, Heermann's Gull, Lava Gull, Swallow-tailed Gull, Kelp Gull, Dolphin Gull, South American Tern
 
Images:   
Sanderling, Willet, Piping and Semipalmated Plovers,
Masked, Southern, Red-wattled, and Northern Lapwings
, White-tailed Plover,
Eurasian, Blackish, and American Black Oystercatchers, Pied Stilt,
Northern and Wattled Jacanas, Snowy SheathbillWillet, Sanderling, Western Sandpiper,
Red Phalarope, Alaskan shorebirds, Laughing Gull, Forster's Tern, Black Skimmer,
South Polar Skua
, Bonaparte's Gull, Fairy Tern, Black Skimmer,
Common Murre, Pigeon Guillemot, Klittliz's Murrelet, Black Guillemot, and Tufted Puffin
 
  "Alcae" -  Alcids (Auks, Murres, and Puffins)
Wiki     ToL     EoL
  Alcids are the third conceptual group of the Charadriiformes. They are found in the Northern Hemisphere, primarily on Arctic seas and along their coasts - they are the ecological equivalent of "penguins" in the Northern Hemisphere. Sibley and Monroe (1990) place them in the Family Laridae. However, other sources place them in their own family.
   They are divers with palmate feet. Their bill is laterally compressed but variously shaped. They spend most of their time at sea (and under the surface feeding). They are heavy, compact birds with dense waterproof plumage. Their wings are short. They usually fly close to the surface. Most remain well offshore except when breeding. Smaller alcids may depart from and return to their nest cliffs or burrows at night because of predation by larger gulls. Alcids use both their feet for steering and wings for power when diving under water. They are characteristic of Northern seas.
   We place these birds in one taxon - the Family Alcidae.
 
  Family Alcidae - Auks, Murres, Puffins, and Guillemots
Wiki     ToL     EoL
 
23 (24) species placed in 10 (11) genera. Holarctic - most northern oceans. Their nearest living relatives may be jaegers and skuas and they are appropriately placed with the Lari. Living alcids can be placed in the following groups:
   Subfamily Alcinae (two other subfamilies contain extinct representatives)
      Tribe Alcini - auks and murres (e.g., guillemots (Uria), Little Auk, Razorbill)
      Tribe Synthliboramphini - synthliboramphine murrelets (e.g., Ancient Murrelet, Synthliboramphus spp)
      Tribe Cepphini - guillemots (e.g., Black Guillemot, other Cepphus spp.)
      Tribe Brachyramphini - brachramphine murrlets (e.g. Marbled Murrelet, Brachyramphus spp)
      Tribe Aethini - auklets (e.g., Cassin's Auklet, Aethia spp)
      Tribe Fraterculini - puffins (e.g., Rhinoceros Auklet, puffins (Fratercula spp))

   These are social seabirds, well adapted for life on the water. They are small to medium-sized birds (the Little Auklet, Aethia pusilla, is 6 inches long at 85 g and the Thick-billed Murre, Uria lomvia, is 18 inches long. They have heavy, compact bodies and dense waterproof plumage. Their down is thick and evenly distributed. Many have dark upperparts and white ventral areas. Various breeding adornments enhance their appearance. The sternum is long and narrow. They are short-winged, wing-propelled divers with palmate (webbed) feet. They use their feet for steering as they feed along the bottom and kick off with them as they start to swim - they then trail the feet behind the body and swim with their wings. They have been recorded to depths of 100 m. They have no hallux. Although awkward on land, they are strong fliers. They have a variable bill that is laterally compressed - ranging from the long, thin bills of fish-eaters (Uria, Cepphus) to the triangular gill of puffins (Fratercula). Small auklets and murrelets have a short, stubby bill. Others show variations for different diets. They have a complex rhamphotheca (it is molted rather than worn away as in most species - it is said to be "deciduous"). Pelvic muscles are A(B)Y.
   Alcids often swim and fly in lines. They pursue their food underwater - they eat fish, squid, crustaceans and a variety of plankton. Larger species probably eat more fish. Food may vary with the season. Productive upwellings of deep ocean water may attract large numbers of alcids.
   The only seabird competiton with alcids is provided by cormorants (foot-propelled divers) which tend to feed closer inshore. Where cormorants are present, alcids move farther offshore.
   They are monogamous and may mate for life. They have ritualized displays to maintain pair bonds. They breed on rocky cliffs or burrows. Most are colonial breeders. Most smaller alcids (murrelets, auklets, puffins) are active at night to avoid predation. Most species lay 1-2 eggs. (Cliff nesters lay 1 pyriform egg). Incubation varies from 27 to 46 days, depending on the species. In the Ancient Murrelet, Synthliboramphus antiquus, each parent may incubate for as long as 72 hours. Their young are precocial, leaving the nest when 1-2 days of age. Atlantic Puffins, Fratercla arctica, leave their chicks in the nest to find their own way to the sea. Marbled Murrelets, Brachyramphus marmoratus, nests in the canopy of old-growth coniferous forests - as far away from the ocean as 60 miles.
   Auks are restricted to northern waters. Pursuit diving becomes less efficient in warmer waters - food items move more rapidly at warmer temperatures while the bird's speed remains constant. The most southern species are found in areas with cold upwellings. The scarcity of alcids in the Atlantic is due to extinction - there were more Atlantic species in the past. Today the Razorbill, Alca torda, is the only true auk restricted to the Atlantic.
   The flightless Great Auk, Pinguinus impennis, (Wiki) was last seen alive in 1844. Historically, it wintered in the Atlantic as far south as South Carolina. Unlike penguins, it had well developed flight feathers.
 
Common Murre

Pigeon Guillemot

Kittlita's Murrelet
Pigeon Guillemot, Cepphus columba.
Kenai Fjords National Park, AK.
Photo by Ed Konrad
                                                Wiki     ToL     EoL
Kittlitz's Murrelet, Brachyramphus brevirostris. Kenai Fjords National Park,
Photo by Ed Konrad
                                               Wiki     ToL     EoL
 
Common Murre, Uria aalge.
Seattle Aquarium
                                        SI Web
Black Guillemot
Tufted Puffin
   
Black Guillemot, Cepphus grylle.
Monterey Bay
                                                 SI Web
Tufted Puffin, Fratercula cirrhata.
Kenai Fjords National Park.
Photo by Ed Konrad
                                                Wiki     ToL     EoL
       
       
       
       
       
       
     
  Banner - Black Guillemot. Monterey Bay, CA.