BIRDS: Have you seen the Little Auk or Dovekie?


Most years there are reports of the Dovekie (Little Auk) showing up in the Bay of Fundy. Only about 20 cm long this tiny little bird often confuses locals and visitors alike.

Have you seen this fascinating little bird? Let us know where and when in the comments.

The Little Auk, or Dovekie (Alle alle), 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.

Their breeding habitat is coastal mountainsides, where they have huge 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. 

Little Auk in winter plumage
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 produce a variety of twitters and cackling calls at the breeding colonies, but are silent at sea.


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