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A photo of a Parakeet Auklet (Aethia psittacula)
Parakeet Auklet

Parakeet Auklet

Aethia psittacula

The Parakeet Auklet is a diminutive seabird, measuring a mere 23 centimeters in length. It is distinguished by its short, vibrant orange bill, which curves upwards, giving the bird a rather quizzical expression. The plumage of this auklet is a stark contrast of dark hues above and a pristine white below, accented by a singular white plume that elegantly extends back from the eye. Observers will note a subtle variation between the bird's breeding and winter attire.

Identification Tips

When attempting to identify the Parakeet Auklet, look for its unique upturned bill and the contrasting dark and white plumage. The white plume near the eye is a key feature, along with its small stature and fixed, curious gaze.

Habitat

The Parakeet Auklet is at home in the boreal waters of the North Pacific, favoring the cliffs, slopes, and boulder-strewn landscapes of remote offshore islands for its breeding grounds.

Distribution

This species is associated with the northern reaches of the Pacific Ocean, with breeding territories spanning from Alaska to Kamchatka and Siberia. During the winter months, the Parakeet Auklet tends to migrate southward.

Behaviour

The Parakeet Auklet is a highly social creature, particularly within its breeding colonies. It is known for its vocal nature at the nest, engaging in a series of rhythmic hoarse calls reminiscent of the Cassin's auklet, as well as a quavering squeal. These vocalizations may serve to ward off intruders and to reinforce the bond with its mate.

Song & Calls

At the nest, the Parakeet Auklet is quite the conversationalist, initiating calls upon arrival and engaging in duets once its partner joins. The purpose of these vocal exchanges remains a mystery, though they are thought to play a role in burrow defense and pair bonding.

Breeding

Breeding season commences in April and May, with colonies often shared with other auk species. The pair will lay a single egg, which is then incubated for just over a month. The chick, once hatched, is tended to with great care, receiving meals four times daily for approximately 35 days. In a solitary nocturnal flight, the fledgling makes its way to the sea.

Diet and Feeding

The diet of the Parakeet Auklet varies seasonally. During the breeding season, it primarily consumes small planktonic crustaceans such as euphausiids, copepods, and amphipods. It has also been observed preying on jellyfish in certain locales. To forage, it may dive up to 30 meters deep and often travels considerable distances from its colony to feed.

Conservation status

The Parakeet Auklet is currently not considered to be under threat, boasting a robust population exceeding one million individuals in the North Pacific. While there has been no recent indication of population decline, future threats could include introduced predators and the detrimental effects of oil spills.

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