Fun Little Auk Facts For Kids

Moumita Dutta
May 11, 2023 By Moumita Dutta
Originally Published on Aug 05, 2021
Edited by Jacob Fitzbright
Fact-checked by Ankit Shinde
Little auk facts are all about the smallest European auk species.
Age: 3-18
Read time: 6.5 Min

The little auk (Alle alle), also known as dovekie, is one of the most rapid-growing sea doves. The little auk is the most widespread bird in the entire Alcidae family. Additionally, it is also the most commonly found auk species that is found in the entire Arctic islands, throughout the Svalbard archipelago, and Franz Josef Land.

Little auks are the smallest member of the Atlantic Alcid group. This auk species forages in huge colonies where there are around a thousand little auks or more in each colony and they even tend to form breeding colonies where these birds unite in pairs and congregate in flocks.

Moreover, as they are the most populous bird found throughout the Arctic and the North Atlantic, they are supposedly responsible for the balance of the ecosystem in these regions.

Little auks are skilled at diving and they can go up to 98 ft deep by pushing and driving themselves underwater.

Little auks have two subspecies as well namely, Alle alle polaris and Alle alle alle. The Alle alle polaris bird has its birth site in the Franz Josef Land whereas the Alle alle alle breeds in Greenland.

To get further insights and facts about the little auk, we have listed these fascinating facts for you to read. You can also take a look at the Arctic tern and the American golden plover.

Little Auk Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a Little Auk?

The little auk, or dovekie (Alle alle), is a little seabird that belongs to the family of Alcidae and is amongst the smallest auks in the world.

What class of animal does a Little Auk belong to?

A little auk is a seabird that belongs to the class Aves.

How many Little Auks are there in the world?

There are approximately 40 million little auks in the world, but their numbers have probably risen, despite climate change.

Where does a Little Auk live?

Little auks, or dovekies (Alle alle), live on the coasts of the high Arctic Islands. They mainly nest in the shore zone or the open waters of the North Atlantic and are native to the Nearctic and Palearctic regions.

Little auks have also been observed breeding in the northern region of the Arctic Circle.

From Novaya Zemlya, Franz Josef Land, and North Greenland to North Iceland, they are found in large breeding colonies with more than a thousand individuals. Moreover, as the non-breeding season approaches, they move to the Faeroe Islands, Gulf Stream, and Virginia Capes.

What is a Little Auk's habitat?

Little auks are mainly found on oceanic islands and marine habitats. Feeding and nesting generally take place on the frontiers of the oceanic islands or near coastal zones.

They reside in the south during the winter and in the northwest Atlantic, where plankton is found in abundance. They move inward toward the shore to breed and set up large colonies and build nests on crevices and rock cliffs. Sometimes, they reside under mountain slopes which are generally far away from seashores.

Who do Little Auks live with?

Little auks are sociable, and they live in small to large colonies, with every colony having tens of thousands of individual little auks.

How long does a Little Auk live?

Little auks may generally live for 10 to 25 years, but this bird is hunted by predators on a very large scale, which shortens its lifespan.

How do they reproduce?

Little auks are monogamous, they form their pair once, which is meant to last forever. However, when the mates are away from the colonies, the females tend to copulate and breed with other males.

The largest colonies have been observed during the breeding season, where they all come together at a nesting site which generally is a cliff, layers of crevices, or mountain slopes near the shore. The nest is layered with small pebbles, and a depression-like dent is formed to lay their egg.

The male auks guard and defend the nest, and the territory is indicated by a large rock that is kept at the entrance of every nest. The males use various postures and acoustics to approach and lure the females.

Followed by the inspection of males by the female auks, and if everything seems suitable, then the pair is formed, which is indicated by a mutual head-bowing posture. After forming pairs, copulation takes place.

The breeding season may range from February to May. Little auks generally lay and incubate one egg per reproduction cycle.

The incubation period generally lasts for 29 days, followed by the cracking and hatching of eggs in the subsequent four days. The hatchlings become completely independent after 28 days. Little auks attain sexual maturity at the age of three and can reproduce until the age of eight.

What is their conservation status?

According to the IUCN, International Union for Conservation of Nature, they are listed as a species of Least Concern.

Little Auk Fun Facts

What do Little Auks look like?

A Little auk on a rock.

Little auks typically have white and black plumage, generally black on the outside and white underneath. The adult birds are heavily built with a small tail, and a black head, neck, back, and wings.

Their stubby black bill is very short and they have a small circular tail which is black. Little auks demonstrate sexual monomorphism where the winter plumage differs from their summer plumage and their bill is relatively large.

The winter plumage is differentiated from the summer plumage with the help of an additional attribute where their neck, breasts, throat, and ear coverts feature a white patch. Little auks have solid dark and thick feathers that include a range of colors from pale white-gray to black.

How cute are they?

Due to their small size, and black and white colors, they look adorable.

How do they communicate?

Little auks (Alle alle) mainly communicate through three different methods, tactile, visual, and acoustic. They mostly use vocalizations and acoustics to communicate. The most common call is the 'trilling call,' which is used to indicate familiarity and identification. Alarm calls, clucking calls, and billing calls are some of the major calls they use to communicate.

How big is a Little Auk?

Little auks are 7.5 to 8.2 in (19-21 cm) long and have a wingspan of around 13 to 15 in (34–38 cm). They are around half the size of Atlantic puffins.

How fast can a Little Auk fly?

Little auks are very swift and can fly at a speed of 43.5 mph (70 kph).

How much does a Little Auk weigh?

Little auks' weight may range from 4.7 to 7.2 oz (134-204 g).

What are the male and female names of the species?

They do not have any distinctive names for their female and male species.

What would you call a baby Little Auk?

A baby little auk (Alle alle) is referred to as a hatchling or a chick.

What do they eat?

Little auks are carnivores, and they mainly eat crustaceans, small fish, annelids, and small invertebrates. Their diet also comprises marine zooplankton, and as they have a higher metabolism rate and need more energy, this bird usually has a high-fat content in their diet.

Are they dangerous?

No, they are not dangerous.

Would they make a good pet?

No, they can't be kept as pets. Little auks are seabirds, and they are adapted to live in their marine habitat and cannot be reared in captivity.

Did you know...

Little auks can preserve oxygen within their tissues, and they can use anaerobic respiration to stay underwater for foraging.

Little auks are the only auk species to have a pouch in their throat that they use to store and transport food to their nestlings.

Are Little Auks at Risk of Extinction?

Little auks are somewhat at risk of extinction in the long run as they have been heavily exploited, and this bird is a victim of climate change as well. They have been devoured for their eggs, feathers, and meat. However, their current population is stable and quite vast.

Can Little Auks fly?

Yes, little auks can fly using their wings. Their nomenclature may suggest otherwise as 'alle' refers to the Sami name of the long-tailed duck. However, these birds are not closely related to ducks and can fly at great speeds of up to 43.5 mph (70 kph).

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other birds, including the oak titmouse and the red-footed booby.

You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one of our little auk coloring pages.

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Written by Moumita Dutta

Bachelor of Arts specializing in Journalism and Mass Communication, Postgraduate Diploma in Sports Management

Moumita Dutta picture

Moumita DuttaBachelor of Arts specializing in Journalism and Mass Communication, Postgraduate Diploma in Sports Management

A content writer and editor with a passion for sports, Moumita has honed her skills in producing compelling match reports and stories about sporting heroes. She holds a degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the Indian Institute of Social Welfare and Business Management, Calcutta University, alongside a postgraduate diploma in Sports Management.

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Fact-checked by Ankit Shinde

Bachelor of Journalism and Mass Communication

Ankit Shinde picture

Ankit ShindeBachelor of Journalism and Mass Communication

Ankit is a Journalism and Mass Media graduate from the University of Mumbai. With experience in SEO, blog and article writing, and fiction writing, he is a versatile writer and content creator. In his free time, Ankit enjoys reading, writing, and listening to music.

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