(noun) The scientific bird family grouping of seabirds that includes all auks, puffins, murres and similar species. There are approximately 24 birds in the Alcidae family, though the number is often overestimated because many species have radically different common names in different parts of the world – for example, the dovekie in North America is called the little auk in Europe, which could lead to double counting the species.
Alcidae birds are confined to the cooler waters of the Northern Hemisphere, where their food sources are more abundant and underwater swimming and diving is easier. In addition to similar northern pelagic ranges, auks share several other characteristics, including:
- Upright posture on land with a generally chunky shape
- Pied plumage with countershading coloration patterns
- Powerful swimming and diving capabilities
- Piscivorous diet of principally fish and krill
Though Alcidae birds are similar in appearance and habits to penguins (Spheniscidae family), they are not closely related to their counterparts in the Southern Hemisphere.
Photo – Rhinocerous Auklet © Mike Baird, flickr.bairdphotos.com
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