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Crested Auklet Aethia cristatella


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Crested Auklet, breeding adult on rock
credit: USFWS

© Lang Elliot/ (audio)

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Family: Alcidae, Auks, Murres, Puffins view all from this family

Description ADULT SUMMER Has sooty black plumage that is darker above than below. Bill is bright orange-red and similar in shape overall to that of Parakeet Auklet. Iris is white and note forwardcurling tuft on forecrown and white plumes behind eye. ADULT WINTER Similar in plumage terms overall, but forecrown plumes are much shorter and bill is duller and smaller (breeding season plates are shed). JUVENILE Similar to winter adult, but bill is duller still, forecrown plumes are even shorter, and eye is darker.

Dimensions Length: 9 1/2-10 1/2" (24-27 cm)

Habitat Very locally common, breeding colonially on islands in Bering Sea; nests in crevices on sea cliffs. Otherwise seen only at sea, winter range typically determined by extent of pack ice.

Observation Tips Easy to see only if you visit a breeding colony; those on St. Paul Island in Pribilof Islands provide good opportunities.

Range Alaska

Voice Utters peculiar yapping and hooting calls at breeding colonies.

Similar Species Whiskered Auklet A. pygmaea (L 7.5-8 in) is smaller and darker, with white belly (dark in Crested) and stubbier red bill. In breeding season has similar forecrown plumes to Crested, but additional two white "whiskers" arising from base of bill; in winter, head ornamentation is reduced and bill is duller. An Aleutian Island specialty, hard to see anywhere else.

Discussion Plump-bodied and distinctive alcid with mostly all-dark plumage, but bizarrely ornamented head in breeding season. Adopts upright posture when sitting on rocks; swims well and dives frequently. Sexes are similar.