Parakeet Auklet

Aethia psittacula

  • Version: 2.0 — Published January 1, 2001
  • Ian L. Jones, Nikolai B. Konyukhov, Jeffrey C. Williams, and G. Vernon Byrd

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Figure 1. Distribution of the Parakeet Auklet in North America.

This species also breeds in Asia. The range at sea and southern limits of its winter range are poorly known. See text for details.

Adult Parakeet Auklet

This beautiful seabird has a doll-like face with stunning white irides, monotonous Whinneying calls, and unusual feeding apparatus and habits. Parakeet Auklets have the widest range of any of the Alaskan auklets, spanning the northern Gulf of Alaska, most of the Bering Sea, the north Pacific south of the Aleutian Islands, and the Sea of Okhotsk in Siberia. Their preferred breeding sites are in crevices along rocky cliff faces, although small breeding colonies may be located on rocky beaches, talus slopes, lava extrusions, and even grassy slopes with scattered boulders. This species is less gregarious and in most areas less abundant than sympatric Least (Aethia pusilla) and Crested (A. cristatella) auklets, and is never observed in large flocks at breeding colonies or at sea. Like other auklets, this species is socially monogamous, with conspicuous vocal and visual courtship displays at its breeding colonies; both sexes display similar ornamental facial plumes. The Parakeet Auklet formerly was placed in a monotypic genus, Cyclorrhynchus, which name refers to the nearly circular profile of the bill. The unusual shape of the bill is amplified by the strongly convex shape of the cutting edge of the upper mandible and the sharply upcurved lower mandible—a bill probably specialized for foraging on gelatinous zooplankton (jellyfish and ctenophores) and crustaceans (e.g., hyperiid amphipods) that live among jellyfish tentacles. Parakeet Auklets' habit of ingesting plastic pellets and other plastic particles at sea has been the subject of concern, although there is no evidence of this habit causing any harm. There is concern about ongoing and potential effects of rat predation on adults, eggs, and nestlings. Studies of Parakeet Auklet breeding biology by Sealy and Bédard (Sealy and Bédard 1973) at St. Lawrence I., Alaska, and by Hipfner and Byrd (Hipfner and Byrd 1993) at Buldir I., Alaska, provided baseline knowledge of this species' habitat selection, reproductive phenology, and chick development. Research by Harrison (Harrison 1990b) and George Hunt's team (Hunt et al. Hunt et al. 1981b, Hunt et al. 1993a, Hunt et al. 1998) has provided information on the species' biology during summer at sea.

Recommended Citation

Jones, I. L., N. B. Konyukhov, J. C. Williams, and G. V. Byrd (2001). Parakeet Auklet (Aethia psittacula), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (A. F. Poole and F. B. Gill, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.