New England Seabirds

Other Sea Animals
Where To Find
Pelagic Trips
Breeding Colonies

Mail Box
Wandering Birder

Sea Conditions


Seabirds | Alcids | Dovekie  Comments | Site Map
New England Seabirds



Alle alle

Dovekie in winter plumage photographed from shore in January 2004 by Glen Tepke and used with his permission. For more of his photographs see the web page . This photo and all others on this page remain the property of the photographer.
Other Names

.Little Auk (Europe)

Historical names include: Bull Bird and Common Rotche.

Bay Bulls in Newfoundland, a departure point for tours to Witless Bay, was named for the large number of Bull Birds which used to be seen in the bay in winter. In recent years the bay has hosted reduced numbers of the birds.

The latin name Alle may have come from the note of the bird which sounds like "try - eye" or to some " al- le". (6) Linnaeus named it Alca alle. This was changed to Mergulus alle and to Plautus alle before it finally became Alle alle.

When and Where To See
Winter from land or sea. Three seen on the Stellwagen CBC in 1998. Almost every winter brings one or two close to Halibut Point or Andrews Point on Cape Ann. Also seen in mid winter from Race Point on Cape Cod although the bird seems to prefer rocky coasts to sandy beaches. Birds seen from land usually do not persist for long so chasing reported birds is seldom productive. Since it is only rarely seen off the west coast of the United States, this bird is a New England specialty.

Suffers predation from Great Black-backed and Herring Gulls. A group of about 35 Brookline Bird Club members were witness to such an attack one winter at Andrews Point. Fortunately everyone had a good look at the Dovekie which was swimming about 10 yards from shore before it was decapitated by a Great Black-backed Gull.

Dovekie in winter plumage photographed by Don Crockett and used with his permission. Photo remains the property of the photographer. For other excellent photographs and interesting birding activities see the Virtual Birder web page.
Dovikie by Don Crockett
Dovekie by Don Crockett Another photo of the above bird by Don Crockett. This photo shows the short neck posture which earned the bird one of its nicknames "Bull Bird".
You may be lucky and catch sight of a Dovekie flying. Leave it to Steve Mirick to actually photograph one in flight. Dovekie flying by Steve Mirick
January 2004 Cape Cod bird photographed by Ron Haaseth with a brand new Christmas digital camera. This bird was unusually close to shore as shown by this photograph in which the photographer seems to be looking down on the bird.

Greenland is the main breeding location where the number of pairs is estimated to be between 8 and 25 million. (Note: Estimating the numbers of pairs is difficult because there are so many and they nest at the end of cavities.) Also: Iceland , Ellesmere Island in Canada, Siberia. Dovekies seem to have abandoned breeding sites in southern Greenland, Iceland, and Norway probably due to global warming. Known to be breeding on St. Lawrence Island in the Berring Sea off  Alaska for 35 years.

Nests in large colonies in cavities in steep talus slopes. The single egg is laid on bare rock usually near the end of a passageway.

On the breeding grounds they are preyed upon by foxes, ravens, gulls, and man. At sea by Beluga Whales.

Winter Disbursal
Some migrate south along the coast of New England spending the winter on the open sea several miles from land. Many spend the winter near the edge of the pack ice off the coasts of Labrador, Newfoundland, and southern Greenland. Global warming may be responsible for reducing the numbers off the coast of New England in recent years. Increased numbers of predatory gulls encouraged by open garbage dumps may also play a role.

Food and Feeding Habits
Feeds on small crustaceans (shrimp) and copepods. Adults carry food back to the young in pouches in their cheeks. Both parents feed the young.

I found this interesting comment in the Life Histories of North American Diving Birds by Arthur Cleveland Bent (6) on page 200 .

Mr. William Brewster (1906) writes (about Dovekies) that the stomachs of several killed on Fresh Pond, Cambridge, Massachusetts, were "filled with the remains of young alewives, " which abounded in the pond.

(An explanation of what the birds were doing on Fresh Pond comes from Mr. William Drummond of Andover who remembers several Dovekies on the flooded quarry at Halibut Point after a winter storm.)

Seabirds | Alcids | Puffin | Razorbill | Murres | Dovekie | Black Guillemot