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Alle alle - Little Auk

Phylum: Chordata - Class: Aves - Order: Charadriiformes - Family: Alcidae

Alle alle, Little Auk, Farmoor Reservoir

The Little Auk, like its close relatives the Guillemot and the Razorbill, is a member of the auk family (Alcidae) - in fact it is the smallest member of this family. It is a winter visitor to coastal waters around Britain, most particularly the North Sea. The lovely Little Auk shown here was photographed at Farmoor Reservoir, in Oxfordshire (much further from the sea than usual); it appears to have been blown inland by stormy weather at the end of November 2021.

Description

Small and rather inconspicuous, with their mainly black plumage when seen from above, Little Auks are about 20cm long and have a wingspan between 35 and 45cm. The underside of the body is white, while the underwings are black, and the short tail is also black. The black beak is short and stout. The Little Auk flies with rapid whirring wingbeats and skims low over the sea.

Distribution

This is a winter visitor from the Arctic and, mainly during stormy weather, is seen sporadically in waters around the UK. Little Auks are rare sights in Britain, and when they are seen off the eastern coast they are nearly always in only very small numbers.

Feeding

Little Auks eat mainly marine zooplankton, tiny crustaceans and very small fish.

Acknowledgements

This page includes pictures kindly contributed by James Wainscoat.

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