Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Whiskered auklet

Aethia pygmaea

(Photo from Astronomy to Zoology)

Common name:
whiskered auklet (en); mérgulo-de-bigode (pt); starique pygmée (fr); mérgulo bigotudo (es); bartalk (de)

Taxonomy:
Order Charadriiformes
Family Alcidae

Range:
This species is found in the northern Pacific, with colonies in the north-eastern Sea of Okhotsk and the Commander Islands, south to the Kuril islands, and throughout the eastern Aleutians as far east as the Krenitzin Islands. Outside the breeding season they mainly remain near the breeding colonies, but may wander as far the northern Bearing Sea and northern Japan.

Size:
These  birds are 17-18 cm long and have a wingspan of around 37 cm. They weigh 99-136 g.

Habitat:
During the breeding season, the whiskered auklet forages in offshore and coastal waters, nesting in bare or partially covered talus slopes and beach boulders in small rocky islands. Outside the breeding season they are mainly pelagic.

Diet:
They feed on a wide range of planktonic crustaceans. During the summer copepods and particularly Neocalanus plumchrus are key prey, while in autumn and winter they mainly prey on euphausiid krill.

Breeding:
Whiskered auklets breed in May-August. They are highly monogamous and mate for life. They nest in large colonies, with each pair nesting in a shallow nest placed in a rocky crevice, natural cave or steep grassy slope, usually 3-250 m above the sea. The female lays a single egg which is incubated by both parents for 35-36 days. The chick are fed by both parents and fledge about 37 days after hatching. Unlike other auklets which leave the colonies immediately after fledging, the young whiskered auklets often remain in the colony for up to 6 weeks.

Conservation:
IUCN status - LC (Least Concern)
This species has a relatively large breeding range and the global population has been very roughly estimated at 100.000-300.000 individuals. The population is suspected to be in decline owing to predation by invasive species and ongoing habitat destruction.

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