Parakeet Auklet Life History

Habitat

Habitat OceansParakeet Auklets nest on islands in the North Pacific. Almost any rocky shoreline that offers protection from the elements can serve as a nest area. They usually place the nest in gaps among boulders or rocks, in caves, and sometimes in talus, scree, or grassy slopes, where they dig or modify burrows of other auk species. In places with introduced predators (rats, foxes), they may nest on steep cliffs, which are more difficult for the animals to access. When not at the nest, Parakeet Auklets live at sea, foraging and resting far from land, usually over very deep, ice-free areas of the North Pacific. They do not congregate in large flocks as a rule, but small numbers may gather where prey is abundant or to socialize at the shoreline on rocks before going to their nest sites. Back to top

Food

Food Aquatic invertebrates

Parakeet Auklets eat small fish, crustaceans, jellies, and comb jellies (ctenophores). Like other alcids, they dive underwater, “flying” with their rounded wings and steering with large, webbed feet. Prey includes small fish (walleye pollock, lanternfish, pricklebacks, rockfish), small squid, tiny crustaceans (copepods, euphausiids, mysids, amphipods, decapods), sea slugs (genus Clione), and other invertebrates such as sea elephants, sea butterflies, polychaete worms, and arrow worms.

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Nesting

Nest Placement

Nest BurrowNests are set near the seashore in rock crevices, cliffs, caves, and gaps between boulders, or in burrows (sometimes dug by other species).

Nest Description

A single egg is laid at the end of the burrow or in a slight depression on the ground, without nesting material. Most nests are less than 20 inches from the burrow entrance, which measures on average 3.2 inches high by 4.4 inches wide.

Nesting Facts

Clutch Size:1 egg
Egg Description:Smooth white, sometimes with a slight blue or green tinge.
Condition at Hatching:Chicks semiprecocial, covered with dense dark down.
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Behavior

Behavior Surface DiveParakeet Auklets begin courtship as soon as they return to nesting areas in spring. Males perch on rocky areas of the coast, throw their heads back, and give ebullient-sounding, whinnying calls to attract females. Interested females land next to males and inspect them. If the male passes inspection, the female begins calling in unison and may crouch next to the male, who sometimes raises his wings as he calls. The pair maintains their bond through the nesting season by billing (touching and rubbing bills together) and calling. They mate only at sea, where males are careful to head off rivals with threat displays. Before they select a nest site, Parakeet Auklet pairs may circle over potential sites, performing a slow “butterfly” flight display together, but they do not form flocks when displaying, in contrast to some auklet species. Unlike the dense colonies of nearby Least or Crested Auklets, their nests are usually well away (average 16 feet) from others of their species. Parakeet Auklet males are socially monogamous and often partner with the same mate in successive seasons. When returning from sea and preparing to return to the nest, Parakeets sometimes gather in small groups of a few dozen along shorelines, clambering onto rocks to interact socially before going to the nest. Males “sing” throughout the breeding season. Both parents share incubation and chick-rearing duties. Once fledged, the chick departs the nest (probably at night) and disperses to sea, independent of its parents. Back to top

Conservation

Conservation Low Concern

The population trends of Parakeet Auklet are unknown. Partners in Flight estimates a global breeding population of 1.4 million birds and rates the species a 12 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score, indicating a species of relatively low conservation concern. On some islands, Parakeet Auklets are sometimes shot for sport or for food. They frequently become entangled in commercial fishing nets and drown. They are also vulnerable to marine pollution, particularly oil spills. The negative impacts of climate change on habitats and food resources represent the chief conservation concern for this species.

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Credits

Jones, Ian L., Nikolai B. Konyukhov, Jeffrey C. Williams and G. Vernon Byrd. (2001). Parakeet Auklet (Aethia psittacula), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York, USA.

Kushlan, J. A., M. J. Steinkamp, K. C. Parsons, J. Capp, M. A. Cruz, M. Coulter, I. Davidson, L. Dickson, N. Edelson, R. Elliott, R. M. Erwin, S. Hatch, S. Kress, R. Milko, S. Miller, K. Mills, R. Paul, R. Phillips, J. E. Saliva, W. Sydeman, J. Trapp, J. Wheeler and K. Wohl (2002). Waterbird conservation for the Americas: The North American waterbird conservation plan, version 1. Washington, DC, USA.

Partners in Flight. (2020). Avian Conservation Assessment Database, version 2020.

Sibley, D. A. (2014). The Sibley Guide to Birds, second edition. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, NY, USA.

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