- ORDER: Charadriiformes
- FAMILY: Alcidae
Despite being one of the most abundant seabirds of the Northern Hemisphere, Dovekies live so far north that relatively few bird watchers get to see them. These tiny, black-and-white auks look like flying billiard balls with whirring wings, but they're expert swimmers that dive deeply to hunt zooplankton. They gather in large flocks in Arctic and North Atlantic waters, often around pack ice. Dovekies breed in huge colonies on rocky cliffs and may fly 60 miles to provision their chicks.More ID Info
Find This Bird
The best way to see Dovekies is to take a pelagic (oceangoing) birding trip to offshore waters during winter, especially in January or February and the farther north the better. (Bring warm, dry clothes and seasickness medication.) In New England and maritime Canada in winter, "seawatching"—spending a few hours patiently scanning the ocean with a spotting scope—can produce sightings of Dovekies as well.
- Mérgulo atlántico (Spanish)
- Mergule nain (French)
- Cool Facts
- Dovekies are abundant, unwary, and easily captured at their nesting areas, so they have provided food for native people in western Greenland for centuries, as well as skins for clothing.
- In Newfoundland, a colloquial name for Dovekie is “bull bird,” owing to its sturdy appearance (and despite its tiny size).
- In addition to a North Atlantic population that numbers over 10 million, a tiny population of Dovekies—perhaps 10 pairs—persists on St. Lawrence Island, Alaska, in the Bering Sea.
- The Dovekie sometimes shows up out of range along the east coast of North America in massive wrecks of stranded, emaciated birds. This may happen when sustained, strong easterly winds make feeding conditions unsuitable and push the weakened birds landward. In the largest recorded wreck in North America, in the winter of 1932–1933, Dovekies touched down on the streets of New York City, and large numbers washed up along the entire eastern seaboard, from Nova Scotia to Florida.