Whiskered Auklet

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Common Name: Whiskered Auklet

Scientific Name: Aethia pygmaea

Size: 7 ¾ inches (19.7 cm)

Habitat: North Pacific: Breeds on Alaska's Aleutian Islands, where it is thought to nest on no more than 10 islands and Asia's Commander Island. south to Kurile Island. It is also observed in the Sea of Okhotsk. Aleutian birds spend the winter in waters near nesting islands. Some Asian birds move further south to spend winters near Japan.

Status: Least Concern/Vulnerable. Global Population: 100,000 mature individuals. Predation of eggs and chicks by introduced arctic foxes and Norway rats on breeding islands is the largest threat. Nocturnal fishing activities near breeding colonies that use lights pose an unknown but potentially serious threat as birds come and go from breeding colonies at night and they can be attracted to lights and collide with ships or become entangled in nets. Oil spills also pose potentially serious threats as they can affect large areas in a short period of time.

Most habitats preferred by Whiskered Auklets are protected within the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge (Aleutian Islands). Many aspects of the breeding biology and population dynamics of this species are unknown and research on this bird is difficult because of its nocturnal behavior, hard-to-locate and widely dispersed nests, and isolated breeding and winter ranges. Without population estimates, however, managing viable populations will be difficult. Until then, habitat protection must remain a priority for this species both within and outside the U.S. The removal of introduced predators from the nesting islands of Whiskered Auklets should also be a priority.

U.S. National Wildlife Refuges like the Alaska Maritime NWR in Alaska provide essential habitat for Whiskered Auklets, and a great number of other species throughout the U.S. and its territories. Unfortunately, the refuge system is often under-funded during the U.S. government's budgeting process.

Diet: Copepods during the summer months, mostly on the species Neocalanus plumchrus; and switching to euphausiid krill in the fall and winter.. They often stick to nearshore areas where currents converge and concentrate zooplankton

Nesting: Neither the male nor the female builds a nest. Instead, the female lays one egg on bare rock or in a small crevice on a cliff face. A colonial breeder, Whiskered Auklet colonies often number far less than those of Least and Crested Auklets. Both parents feed young regurgitated food (marine zooplankton) at night..

Cool Facts: One of the smallest and rarest of the alcids in the U.S. (only the Kittlitz's, Craveri's, and Xantus Murrelets have smaller populations), the Whiskered Auklet breeds and winters largely in the remote Aleutian Islands of Alaska.

Its name is derived from the long white feathers on its face that are part of its breeding plumage. The whiskers have been shown to help them sense their way to and out of their nests at night.

Found in Songbird ReMix Puffins

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