The Ancient Murrelet is
the only one of the Auks to ever have been identified in South Dakota.
Normally found along the southern coastline of Alaska and of western Canada,
small numbers of these birds may be blown inland by early winter storms each
year, normally in October or November. They are named for the gray
coloring on the back which is said to resemble an old woman's shawl.
Habitat: During summer breeding season,
they nest in burrows on islands possessing a good vegetation cover. At all
other seasons, they are found on cool waters normally around the edge of the
continental shelf, although they do sometimes feed close to shore.
Diet: Small fish and crustaceans
(primarily euphausiid shrimp) make up the majority of the diet.
Behavior: Forages by diving and swimming
underwater for prey. Males will sing from the tops of trees during the
breeding season, an unusual sight for a seabird such as this.
Breeding: Non-breeder in South Dakota
Song: Gives soft whistles and
chirps during the breeding season.
Migration: Can be found all year long along the Aleutians and
the southern coast of Alaska, southward to the coast of British Columbia.
In the winter, some move as far south as the California coast.
Conservation Status: Populations have been in decline for many
years. Foxes, raccoons, and rats that have been purposely or
accidentally introduced on breeding islands have completely wiped out
breeding populations in some locations.
Cornell University's "All About Birds - Ancient Murrelet"
-- Ancient Murrelet
Photo Information: Photo courtesy of Dan