Another bird-nerd critter post! Both Seth and I have soft spots for goofy-looking birds and they don’t get much goofier than auklets. On our sail to the Arctic in 2015, we spent several days on St Paul island in the central Bering Sea, binoculars and cameras trained on cliffs full of nesting auklets. It was a toss-up for my favorite, but the Least Auklet was certainly a contender.
My seabird book describes the Least Auklet as “tiny, chubby, short-necked”. They are the smallest alcid at only 6 inches tall and are numerous and gregarious.
Range and Habitat:
Least Auklets live in the North Pacific, breeding on islands in the Bering Sea, including the Aleutians, in June and July. They stay in the ice-free waters of their breeding range all winter. They nest in crevices of sea cliffs.
Despite their diminutive stature, Least Auklets are “voracious predators”, according to Wikipedia, consuming 86% of their body weight each day. They feed on tiny pelagic crustaceans and zooplankton, using their wings to “fly” underwater.
Arctic foxes and rats prey on the birds, their eggs, and their young. While Arctic foxes are native to the Pribilofs and other central Bering Sea islands, they are not native to the Aleutians and have consequently wiped out several Least Auklet breeding colonies on those islands. Rats are not native to any of the Least Auklet’s breeding grounds.