Least Auklet is the smallest of the auk family, as they are no bigger than a
typical songbird. They are very common in many areas near the
Aleutians and islands in the Bering Sea, and are often considered the most
abundant seabird in North America. Near breeding colonies, very large,
flocks can often be seen whirling in the sky. Non-breeding birds show
white plumage on their underparts, but during the breeding season, Least
Auklets display a continuum of plumage colors on their bellies, from white,
to white with dark spotting, to a solid dark grayish-black.
Habitat: Nests on rocky islands in the far north
Pacific. Outside of the breeding season, they can be found at sea, anywhere
from close to shore to far out to sea.
Diet: Feeds on small crustaceans such as copepods
and shrimp, as well as small amphipods and other small sea creatures.
Behavior: Feeds by swimming underwater.
Given smaller size, they likely are unable to dive as deep as other, larger
Alcids. Very gregarious, they form large breeding colonies, often in
conjunction with Crested Auklets.
Nesting: No nest is built, the female lays a
single egg directly on the ground. Nesting occurs on rocky slopes with
abundant crevices and crannies. Both parents help to incubate the egg,
and both parents help tend to the youngster when the egg hatches.
Song: On their breeding grounds, they have a
variety of calls, including high-pitched trilling calls, thin chattery
calls, and squeaky grating calls. They are silent away from their
Migration: Birds breeding in and around areas that
stay ice-free all year are generally permanent residents, often staying in
the vicinity of breeding colonies. Birds breeding on Bering Sea
islands where ice forms in the winter move south, with most overwintering in
the vicinity of the Aleutians. They are only very rare strays further
south, but they have been found as far south as Washington state.
Not likely to be confused with other Auklet species if seen well, but
possibly confused with some murrelet species at range.
The Least Auklet is very common in much of its range, and although
population declines have been noted, they are currently not in serious
IUCN lists the Least Auklet as a species of "Least Concern".
Photo Information: Photo is public domain image
from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.