New England Seabirds
The family Alcidae or Auks as they are known in Europe all breed in the Northern Hemisphere. They are small, rather dumpy birds that fly with rapid wing beats and use their wings to swim underwater. True seabirds they come to land to breed in large colonies and then disburse to the open ocean for most of their lives. Alcids tend to fly and swim in lines. (30. Sibley) Alcids are not scavengers and are not attracted to boats by chumming.
Smaller Alcids are preyed upon by gulls. To see Alcids from a pelagic avoid attracting gulls to the boat with popcorn or stale bread.
We see them as pelagics in winter plumage from late fall to early spring. Six species are found in the north Atlantic. Two of which are restricted to the Atlantic: Razorbills and Atlantic Puffin. Two more are easier to see on the Atlantic side: Black Guillemot and Dovekie. These four species are considered New England specialties.
All of the Atlantic Alcids except the Dovekie, breed in Maine. Dovekies have been breeding on St. Lawrence in the Berring Sea for some 35 years.
Alcids like these Razorbills fly and swim in straight lines. Photo by Leonard Medlock.