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Overview

Brief Summary

Little auks float on the waves as chubby fishnet bobbers. They often spend days in the same place, such as a harbor. Yet it's not usually that easy to spot little auks. They often live far out at sea. The best chance of seeing one is after a major western November storm. The starling-sized birds are then blown towards the coast. After such a storm, they are even found on the mainland, in the strangest places: in a woods or in the middle of a city. On 23 October 2005, all records were broken when 3287 little auks were counted on Schiermonnikoog in just 9 hours.
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Distribution

occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations

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National Distribution

Canada

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Year-round

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Breeding

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Global Range: (>2,500,000 square km (greater than 1,000,000 square miles)) BREEDING: coasts from northeastern Canada (probably) and northwestern Greenland east to Severnaya Zemlya, south to southwestern Greenland, Svalbard, northern Iceland (very few), Novaya Zemlya; also Arctic Basin of northern Russia and probably eastward to Bering Strait and northern Bering Sea (apparently attempting to breed on or near Little Diomede, King, St. Lawrence, and St. Matthew islands) (USFWS 1993, Day et al. 1988). Alaskan birds apparently are peripheral immigrants to the Bering Sea from the enormous breeding colonies in Greenland and Russia (USFWS 1993). NON-BREEDING: offshore and along coasts in the North Atlantic mainly from Newfoundland Grand Banks to northern Norway, also regular to Gulf of Maine and Scotland; sometimes to West Indies, eastern Atlantic islands, and western Mediterranean Sea. Wintering area for Alaskan birds is unknown.

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Range Description

The Little Auk breeds on islands of the high Arctic, being found on islands in the Bering Sea, from east Baffin Island (Canada), through Greenland (to Denmark), Iceland to Spitsbergen, Bear Island and the Jan Mayen Islands (to Norway), Novaya Zemlya, Severnaya Zemlya and Franz Josef Land, Russia. It is migratory, expanding its range in winter to include the North Atlantic Ocean as far south as the United Kingdom and the north-east USA1.
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Geographic Range

Alle alle, commonly named little auks or dovekies, are native to the Nearctic and Palearctic regions. During non-breeding, winter months they are distributed from the southern limit of the pack ice south to the Gulf Stream, Virginia Capes, and Faeroe Islands. They breed north of the Arctic Circle from North Greenland, Franz Josef Land, and Novaya Zemlya south to North Iceland. With rising average global temperature, the pack ice has been retreating, so each year dovekies follow the south edge of the pack ice further north. Individuals are rarely seen much further south, as far as Cuba and the Canary Islands.

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native ); palearctic (Native ); oceanic islands (Native ); arctic ocean (Native ); atlantic ocean (Native )

Other Geographic Terms: holarctic

  • Audubon, J. 1937. The Birds of America. New York: The Macmillan Company.
  • Pough, R. 1951. Audubon Water Bird Guide. Garden City: Doubleday and Company.
  • Gaston, A., I. Jones. 1998. The Auks. New York: Oxford University Press.
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High Arctic. South to New England and New York, in Eastern Atlantic south to Ireland and England.
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North America; range extends throughout the Canadian Atlantic
  • North-West Atlantic Ocean species (NWARMS)
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Physical Description

Morphology

Physical Description

Dovekies are one of the smallest seabird species. They are 19 to 23 cm in length, with an average wingspan of 40 cm. They weigh 140 to 152 g, and have a short, round body with a small sparrow-like bill. They are rotund birds, with rounded cheeks and a compact body. Two subspecies have been identified, and differ on the basis of size. The majority of dovekies belong to the smaller subspecies A. a. alle. The larger A. a. polaris is known only from Franz Josef Land and Severnaya Zemlya.

In the winter, dovekies have a distinct black and white coloration. They have a black bill and black neck, glossy black dorsal parts and tail, a white breast and belly, and black tarsi (toes and webs). They have dark brownish-black coloration under the wing. In the summer, the black coloration in the breast fades to a 'sooty' brown color, and the cheeks, chin, and throat also develop some brown feathers. Additionally, in the summer they develop a white patch behind the eye and the secondary feathers have white tips. For the most part, dovekies exhibit sexual monomorphism, except that the male has a larger bill, and the summer and winter plumage is different.

Dovekies are born with thick, dark plumage. The color varies from nearly black to a pale gray. Chicks lack the white eye patch behind the eye, and have a lighter coloration on their throat. Their back plumage is dull, not yet glossy like the adults, and their bill is browner. Chicks eventually undergo a complete molt and gain flight feathers that replace the body feathers.

Dovekies have small wings adapted for water, thick bodies, and large feet towards the front of the body. They have dense waterproof plumage and strong bones to resist water pressure. Dovekies bodies are highly adapted for cold temperatures. Their bodies have a small surface area, with thick layers of fat that insulate main organs and prevent heat loss. They have thick plumage that insulates the body from the freezing temperatures of the water. Their basal metabolic rate ranges from 2.29 to 2.55 cm^3 oxygen/hr, with an average rate at 2.42 cm^3 oxygen/hr.

Range mass: 140.3 to 164.7 g.

Range length: 19 to 23 cm.

Average length: 20.5 cm.

Average wingspan: 40 cm.

Range basal metabolic rate: 2.29 to 2.55 cm^3 oxygen/hour.

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry

Sexual Dimorphism: sexes alike; sexes colored or patterned differently

  • Gabrielsen, W., J. Taylor, M. Konarzewski, F. Mehlum. 1991. Field and Laboratory Metabolism and Thermoregulation in Dovekies. The Auk, 108: 71-78.
  • 2006. "Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History" (On-line). Accessed October 14, 2006 at http://museum.gov.ns.ca/mnh/nature/nsbirds/bns0194.htm.
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Size

Length: 21 cm

Weight: 163 grams

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Length: 20-25 cm, Wingspan: 31-33 cm
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Ecology

Habitat

Comments: NON-BREEDING: mostly pelagic in low-arctic waters, tends to remain near pack ice; less frequently along seacoasts (AOU 1983, Nettleship and Evans 1985, Johnsgard 1987). Sometimes found inland after hurricanes and storms. BREEDING: Nests on talus slopes, rocky coastal cliffs; in holes and crevices. Nests usually on coast but locally inland in some areas. Typically nests apart from other species, but sometimes near other alcids.

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Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
This species feeds mainly on small invertebrates such as amphipods and euphausiids and on fish larvae. The precise timing of its spring arrival at breeding colonies is variable depending on locality, from late February on Franz Josef Land to early May in north-west Greenland. Immense colonies are formed on sea coasts, usually nesting in crevices in rock scree of maritime slopes and on coastal cliffs. Colonies are abandoned in August with individuals seeking more southerly waters (del Hoyo et al. 1996).

Systems
  • Terrestrial
  • Marine
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Dovekies are adapted for marine habitats and live and feed offshore near upwelling zones or at oceanic fronts. They only come ashore to breed, when they seek out rocky scree slopes, eroded cliff faces, talus nooks, or porous lava flows from recent volcanic actions. They spend most of the winter in the northwest Atlantic foraging where plankton is abundant.

Range elevation: 400 (high) m.

Average depth: 40 m.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; polar ; terrestrial ; saltwater or marine

Terrestrial Biomes: tundra ; icecap

Aquatic Biomes: pelagic ; coastal

  • Sibley, D. 2003. The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Eastern North America. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.
  • Freethy, R. 1987. Auks: An Ornithologist's Guide. New York: Facts on File Publications.
  • Sibley, D. 2001. Auks. Pp. 309-318 in C Elphick, J Dunning, D Sibley, eds. The Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.
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Depth range based on 10981 specimens in 1 taxon.
Water temperature and chemistry ranges based on 9716 samples.

Environmental ranges
  Depth range (m): 0 - 0
  Temperature range (°C): -1.109 - 19.661
  Nitrate (umol/L): 0.703 - 12.040
  Salinity (PPS): 6.428 - 35.490
  Oxygen (ml/l): 5.322 - 9.084
  Phosphate (umol/l): 0.161 - 0.959
  Silicate (umol/l): 0.565 - 9.916

Graphical representation

Temperature range (°C): -1.109 - 19.661

Nitrate (umol/L): 0.703 - 12.040

Salinity (PPS): 6.428 - 35.490

Oxygen (ml/l): 5.322 - 9.084

Phosphate (umol/l): 0.161 - 0.959

Silicate (umol/l): 0.565 - 9.916
 
Note: this information has not been validated. Check this *note*. Your feedback is most welcome.

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Offshore, open sea. Prefers cold waters.
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Migration

Non-Migrant: No. All populations of this species make significant seasonal migrations.

Locally Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species make local extended movements (generally less than 200 km) at particular times of the year (e.g., to breeding or wintering grounds, to hibernation sites).

Locally Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species make annual migrations of over 200 km.

Birds from northwestern Greenland winter off Newfoundland; many from European arctic winter off southwestern and possibly southeastern Greenland. Those from Franz Josef Land apparently winter in Barents Sea close to colonies (Brown 1985). See Johnsgard (1987) for more information.

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Some move south to Grand Banks and New England. Others remain at edges of pack ice.
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Trophic Strategy

Comments: Adults eat mainly planktonic marine crustaceans; also small fishes. Young fed crustac. plankton; also pteropod molluscs and larval fishes. Forages up to 100 km from colony (usually closer). Dives underwater from surface. See Bradstreet and Brown (1985).

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Food Habits

Dovekies are carnivores. They eat crustaceans, annelids, and mollusks, and small fish, but mainly depend on planktonic crustaceans for survival. Euphasiids, amphipods, Arctic cod, Calanus finmarchius, Gammarus species, Mysis species, Atylus carinatus, Argonauta arctia, and Parathemisto libella are all eaten by dovekies.

Dovekies have an enhanced capacity to store oxygen in their tissues, so they can use anaerobic respiration to perform long dives for food. They often dive 40 m below surface in pursuit of prey. They use their wings to move through the water by flapping them back and forth. This flying motion is unusual, but dovekies have small, stiff wings that are adapted for this type of underwater movement. They usually feed in the daytime when plankton is more visible.

Animal Foods: fish; terrestrial non-insect arthropods; mollusks; aquatic crustaceans; zooplankton

Primary Diet: carnivore (Eats non-insect arthropods); planktivore

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Mostly small crustaceans. Will also eat small fish, marine worms, mollusks, and some algae.
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Associations

Ecosystem Roles

Dovekies play an important role as predators, affecting and perhaps even regulating zooplankton populations, and as prey, supporting mammalian predator populations in the Arctic Circle. Due to their large abundance and wide distribution, dovekies may be considered a keystone species in the Arctic Circle. In large nesting colonies, dovekie guano creates excess nitrogen, killing macrophytic plants and leaving only nitrogen-tolerant vegetation, such as lichens.

Ecosystem Impact: keystone species

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Predation

Humans, wild cats, arctic foxes, raccoons, mink, glaucous gulls, rats, and presumably other rodents are predators of dovekies when they are nesting on land. Most of these predators prey on both young and adult dovekies, but the smaller species, such as rats, feed on eggs. Dovekies have a black glossy back and fly low to the surface of the water in order to disguise themselves from gulls. They nest on high altitude, rocky, sloping, terrestrial landscapes to avoid proximity to predators. They travel and nest in large groups and use vocal warnings when predators approach. They may have marine predators, but we do not have detailed information on this.

Known Predators:

Anti-predator Adaptations: cryptic

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Known predators

Alle alle (kittiwake, guillemots, fulmar petrel, little auk, puffin) is prey of:
Alopex lagopus

Based on studies in:
Norway: Spitsbergen (Coastal)

This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
  • V. S. Summerhayes and C. S. Elton, Contributions to the ecology of Spitsbergen and Bear Island, J. Ecol. 11:214-286, from p. 232 (1923).
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Known prey organisms

Alle alle (kittiwake, guillemots, fulmar petrel, little auk, puffin) preys on:
Animalia

Based on studies in:
Norway: Spitsbergen (Coastal)

This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
  • V. S. Summerhayes and C. S. Elton, Contributions to the ecology of Spitsbergen and Bear Island, J. Ecol. 11:214-286, from p. 232 (1923).
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Population Biology

Number of Occurrences

Note: For many non-migratory species, occurrences are roughly equivalent to populations.

Estimated Number of Occurrences: 81 to >300

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Global Abundance

>1,000,000 individuals

Comments: World breeding population estimated at 9.4-25.1 million pairs, with most (7.5-20 million pairs) nesting in the vicinity of Thule, Greenland (Montevecchi and Stenhouse 2002).

A few pairs remain in Iceland, 50,000 pairs nest at Jan Mayen, 10,000 pairs at Bear Island, and 400,000-1.6 million pairs at Spitsbergen (Evans 1984); in the Russian high Arctic, 10,000-50,000 pairs nest at Novaya Zemyla, 250,000 pairs at Franz Josef Island, and more than 75,000 pairs at Servernaya Zemyla on the Laptev Sea (see USFWS 1993). Breeding population in Canada, as yet undocumented, is presumed to be small (less than 1000 breeding pairs). USFWS (1993), in rejecting a petition to have the Alaskan population listed as endangered, concluded that the dovekie always has been rare in Alaska and ruled that the Alaskan population does not meet the definition of a species or distinct population segment under the ESA.

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General Ecology

Large numbers of carcasses and emaciated birds sometimes wash ashore, generally in January-February in areas south of usual range, apparently related to rough seas and/or failing plankton supply (Hudson 1985).

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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Communication and Perception

Dovekies mainly use vocalizations to communicate. The ‘trilling call’ is the main type of vocalization and is used for recognition during flight, on land, and on water. The ‘trilling call' is used to identify mates. Other vocalizations include an alarm call, indicating predators are near, a 'clucking call', for close contact communication, and a 'billing call' that is often used after eggs have been laid. Chicks use a loud begging call for food, and a shrill peeping sound when separated from parents.

Another form of communication is body language. Dovekies use a 'head-vertical' posture when they have claimed a breeding territory. They use a 'head-down' landing posture, and rolling walk, in order to indicate passivity while intruding nesting territory claimed by other dovekies.

Additionally, dovekies have exceptional underwater vision. This is useful for capturing plankton at depths that offer little ambient light. It is speculated that they use bioluminescence to locate prey.

Communication Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic

Other Communication Modes: duets

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Life Expectancy

Lifespan/Longevity

Although little information is available, it appears that dovekies normally live from 10 to 25 years of age. Natural lifespan of dovekies is often shortened by predation.

Typical lifespan

Status: wild:
10 to 25 years.

Average lifespan

Status: wild:
16 years.

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Reproduction

In most years in most colonies egg laying peaks late June. Both sexes, in turn, incubate 1 egg for 28-31 days. Young tended by both adults, fledges and apparently independent at average age of 27-28 days. Nests in very large dense colonies.

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Dovekies are monogamous and breed seasonally. They form pair bonds at their breeding site, which last for several years. Pairs reunite at the same nesting site each year. Although monogamous, it has been found that females sometimes copulate with other males when their mate is away from the colony, and most sources indicate that more research is needed in this area.

During breeding season, large colonies of dovekies, ranging from 1000 to several million, will gather at a nesting site. The site is usually a coastal cliff side, nunatak, or mountainside within 30 km from the coast. Nests are normally distributed in small groups of ten or more. Individual nesting sites are claimed by the male and are 0.5 to 1.0 m in diameter. The nest is comprised of a layer of pebbles that lead from the entrance to the depression where the egg is laid. At the entrance, a large rock normally marks the territory and is used for taking off. The nest is defended by the male, and fighting over nest sites will occur between males. This mainly involves relatively harmless grappling and interlocking of bills. After successfully claiming a nest site, a male will use a ‘head-vertical posture’ to indicate his claim. Also, there have been observations of males flying over a site and dropping a pebble, possibly indicating their intention to claim a site.

Males will approach females and use postures and vocalizations to attract the attention of females. Females then inspect males, and if a male is found suitable, the pair will often engage in a ‘head bowing’ ceremony that involves facing each other and mutually bowing their heads for approximately one minute. Then, ‘clucking’, bill touching, and fluttering of wings occurs. Pairs may then engage in a slow, low to the ground ‘Butterfly’ flight, ritualized walks, or preening and unique displays of various postures. Shortly after, copulation will occur. There is not much information available regarding male protection of his female mate.

Mating System: monogamous

Dovekies return to breed as early as February, and as late as May. Dovekies will lay and incubate one egg per breeding season. This could be due to the short amount of time allowed for breeding, which is influenced by the quick closing of the pack ice. Eggs are very large, averaging from 4 to 5 cm in length, and weighing an average of 30 g. Incubation periods usually last 29 days, and eggs begin to hatch four days after the first pipping crack appears. Chicks are born semi-precocial and brooded 2 to 4 days until becoming homeothermic. After this, chicks are left alone except during feeding, and start to exercise at the mouth of the nest cavity when aged 15 days. The chick reaches peak weight at age 21 days, and at 23 days most chicks exhibit highest fat proportions. They fledge when aged 27 to 28 days. Fledging is often synchronized and matured young depart from the colony either singly, with parents, or in small groups. Dovekies reach sexual maturity when aged 3 years, and breed until aged 8 years.

Breeding interval: Dovekies lay one brood per year.

Breeding season: Breeding mainly occurs from March to June.

Average eggs per season: 1.

Average time to hatching: 29 days.

Average fledging age: 27 days.

Average time to independence: 29 days.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 3 years.

Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 3 to 8 years.

Key Reproductive Features: seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate)

About a month before breeding season, dovekies will feed heavily, especially females, in order to prepare their bodies for the energy expenditures involved with breeding. This is especially important for females, because eggs are very large, and require a major allocation of resources. Normally the male will prepare the nest site, and after copulation and egg-laying, both male and female parents provide care and protection at nest site. Protection merely involves covering the egg with a wing, and being on the look out for predators while incubating the egg. Parents take shifts incubating the egg, females mostly tend to the egg during the day, and males at night.

After hatching, both parents take care of the chick until it develops a layer of down and becomes homeothermic. They both take trips to retrieve food for the young, mainly copepod crustaceans. This involves flying as far as 20 kilometers from the nesting site 4 to 14 times daily, catching food, and delivering it back to the nest in elastic gular pouches. It was found that males retrieve the food more often than females. As the chick begins to mature, fledging is learned from both parents. Therefore, parental care during all stages of reproduction is divided equally between male and female parents. Chicks are abandoned at sea shortly after fledging occurs, but parents will sometimes still associate with their young as they roam the open ocean in the winter months.

Parental Investment: precocial ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Male, Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Male, Female, Protecting: Male, Female); pre-independence (Provisioning: Male, Female, Protecting: Male, Female); post-independence association with parents

  • Gabrielsen, W., J. Taylor, M. Konarzewski, F. Mehlum. 1991. Field and Laboratory Metabolism and Thermoregulation in Dovekies. The Auk, 108: 71-78.
  • Audubon, J. 1937. The Birds of America. New York: The Macmillan Company.
  • Pough, R. 1951. Audubon Water Bird Guide. Garden City: Doubleday and Company.
  • Sibley, D. 2003. The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Eastern North America. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.
  • Gaston, A., I. Jones. 1998. The Auks. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Freethy, R. 1987. Auks: An Ornithologist's Guide. New York: Facts on File Publications.
  • Harris, M., T. Birkhead. 1985. Breeding Ecology of the Atlantic Alcidae. Pp. 205-231 in D Nettleship, T Birkhead, eds. The Atlantic Alcidae. London: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.
  • Sibley, D. 2001. Auks. Pp. 309-318 in C Elphick, J Dunning, D Sibley, eds. The Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.
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Breeds in large colonies. Nests are built among rocks. 1 egg incubated by both sexes for 28-31 days. Hatchling is fed by both parents.
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Alle alle

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 9
Specimens with Barcodes: 15
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Barcode data: Alle alle

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


There are 10 barcode sequences available from BOLD and GenBank.  Below is a sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.  See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen and other sequences.

GGCACCCTGTATCTAATCTTCGGCGCATGAGCCGGCATAGTTGGTACCGCCCTA---AGCCTGCTTATTCGTGCAGAACTAGGCCAACCAGGGACCCTCCTAGGAGAC---GACCAAATCTATAACGTAATCGTCACCGCCCACGCCTTCGTGATAATCTTCTTCATAGTAATGCCAATCATAATCGGTGGCTTCGGAAACTGACTAGTCCCACTTATG---ATTGGTGCGCCCGATATAGCATTCCCCCGCATAAACAATATAAGCTTCTGATTATTACCCCCATCATTCCTACTTCTCCTGGCCTCTTCCACAGTAGAAGCTGGAGCTGGTACAGGATGAACTGTATACCCTCCCCTAGCTGGCAACCTAGCCCATGCTGGAGCTTCAGTAGACCTA---GCAATCTTCTCCCTTCATTTAGCAGGTGTATCCTCTATCCTAGGTGCTATTAACTTCATCACAACAGCCATCAACATAAAACCCCCAGCCCTTTCACAATACCAAACCCCCCTATTTGTATGATCAGTACTTATTACCGCCGTCTTATTACTACTCTCCCTTCCAGTACTTGCCGCT---GGCATCACTATACTGCTTACAGACCGAAATCTAAACACAACATTCTTCGACCCAGCTGGAGGAGGTGATCCTGTATTATATCAACACCTCTTCTGATTCTTCGGTCACCCAGAAGTATATATCCTCATTCTACCAGGCTTTGGAATTATTTCTCACGTCGTAACGTACTATGCAGGAAAAAAA---GAACCATTCGGCTACATAGGAATGGTATGAGCTATACTATCTATTGGCTTCCTAGGCTTCATCGTATGGGCTCATCACATATTCACCGTTGGGATGGACGTAGATACTCGAGCCTATTTCACATCTGCCACCATAATCATTGCCATTCCTACCGGCATCAAAGTATTTAGCTGACTA---GCTACA
-- end --

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Conservation

Conservation Status

National NatureServe Conservation Status

Canada

Rounded National Status Rank: N1B,N5N : N1B: Critically Imperiled - Breeding, N5N: Secure - Nonbreeding

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N2B - Imperiled

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure

Reasons: Abundant and widespread; no reliable information on trends.

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IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
LC
Least Concern

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2012

Assessor/s
BirdLife International

Reviewer/s
Butchart, S. & Symes, A.

Contributor/s

Justification
This species has a very large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
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Dovekie populations are relatively stable and sufficiently large. However, oil spills and deliberate introduction of mammalian predators such as arctic foxes for fur-farming have had a considerable impact on dovekie populations in the past.

US Migratory Bird Act: protected

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

State of Michigan List: no special status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

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Sometimes hunted by native Arctic peoples, they are quite abundant. No official conservation status.
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Population

Population
The global population is estimated to number c.16,000,000-36,000,000 individuals (del Hoyo et al. 1996), while the population in Russia has been estimated at < c.100 breeding pairs and < c.50 individuals on migration (Brazil 2009).

Population Trend
Decreasing
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Economic Uses

Comments: Hunted on breeding grounds in Greenland (Evans 1984).

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Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Dovekies have no significant negative impact on humans. They are not pests, and do not compete with the fishing industry. They live and nest far from human populations.

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Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Dovekies have nutritious eggs that have long served as a food source for local indigenous people. Their skins, bones, and beaks have been used for making garments and ornaments. Additionally, large populations of dovekies allow arctic fox populations to thrive, which in turn benefits local indigenous people who use fox furs for trading purposes.

Positive Impacts: food ; body parts are source of valuable material

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Wikipedia

Little auk

Little auk swimming and diving. Texel, Netherlands (2007)

The little auk, or dovekie (Alle alle),[2] is a small auk, the only member of the genus Alle. It breeds on islands in the high Arctic. There are two subspecies: A. a. alle breeds in Greenland, Iceland, Novaya Zemlya and Spitsbergen, and A. a. polaris on Franz Josef Land.

Morphology and behaviour[edit]

Little auk in winter plumage

This is the only Atlantic auk of its size, half the size of the Atlantic puffin at 19–21 cm in length, with a 34–38 cm wingspan. Adult birds are black on the head, neck, back and wings, with white underparts. The bill is very short and stubby. They have a small rounded black tail. The lower face and fore neck become white in winter.

The flight is direct, with fast whirring wing beats due to the short wings. These birds forage for food like other auks by swimming underwater. They mainly eat crustaceans, especially copepods, but also other small invertebrates along with small fish. They collect in large swarms before leaving their breeding rocks to head out to sea for food as well as when they return.

Little auks on Svalbard

Little auks produce a variety of twitters and cackling calls at the breeding colonies, but are silent at sea.

Habitat and range[edit]

Their breeding habitat is coastal mountainsides, where they have large colonies. They nest in crevices or beneath large rocks, usually laying just one egg. They move south in winter into northern areas of the north Atlantic. Late autumn storms may carry them south of their normal wintering areas, or into the North Sea. The species is also commonly found in the Norwegian Sea.[3]

In the book, The Long Winter, Laura Ingalls Wilder writes of her father finding a small bird that looked just like a great auk hidden in a haystack after an early October blizzard when the family lived near De Smet, South Dakota around 1880. The family never did find out what it was, but it appears to have been a little auk, blown south by the autumn blizzard.

The glaucous gull and the Arctic fox are the main predators on little auks, and, in some cases, the polar bear has also been reported to feed on their eggs.[4]

Conservation[edit]

Large numbers of little auks have been killed in several oil-spill incidents[citation needed]. but climate changes (warming) in Southern Greenland and Iceland seems to be the reason for the decreasing populations there[citation needed].

As a human food resource[edit]

Kiviaq is an Inuit dish from Greenland. It is made by stuffing a seal skin with 300 to 500 dovekies. Once full and airtight, the skin is sealed with seal fat and the dovekies are left to ferment for 3 to 18 months under a pile of rocks. Caught in spring, the dovekies serve as a food resource in winter.

Knud Rasmussen's death is attributed to food poisoning by kiviaq.

References[edit]

  1. ^ BirdLife International (2012). "Alle alle". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013. 
  2. ^ Animal Diversity Web, 2008
  3. ^ C.Michael Hogan. 2011. Norwegian Sea. Encyclopedia of Earth. Eds. P.Saundry & C.J.Cleveland. National Council for Science and the Environment. Washington DC
  4. ^ K. Isaksen and M. V. Gavrilo, 2000
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