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Alcidae – Auks, Murres, and Puffins

Razorbill in Scotland: Photo by Vincent Gaillard

Welcome to our guides on Alcidae, a family of seabirds found in the northern oceans of the world. With about 23 species, this family is known for its adaptation to marine life, with many species displaying strong flight and diving abilities. Alcids are primarily pelagic, spending most of their lives at sea, but they return to land to breed, often nesting in large colonies on coastal cliffs or islands. This family is fascinating for its diverse range of species, from the iconic puffins to the agile razorbills and guillemots.

Overview of Alcidae

These birds, exclusively adapted to the marine environment, are as graceful in the water as they are clumsy on land, relying on their powerful wings for propulsion. Once airborne, they exhibit swift and direct flight patterns. The timing of fledging varies among species, influenced by factors like safety and food availability near the nest. In some cases, young birds undertake much of their development at sea under the vigilant care of a single parent. Alcids showcase a captivating array of courtship displays, featuring facial plumes, vibrant bills, and even olfactory signals, yet gender differences in ornamentation are absent across species.