Auks, Murres and Puffins (Alcidae)

Auks, murres, and puffins are strictly marine birds that inhabit the open oceans and only come ashore to breed. There are 18 species in Canada. All have short necks, wings, and legs and are mostly black on top with white underneath. This countershading provides camouflage while at sea. They cannot be seen by a predator below because their white stomachs blend in with the light coming from above. However, from above, their black backs blend with the sea below. Their legs are set back near their tail, and they have fully-webbed front toes, making them excellent swimmers.

Alcids feed on marine fish, crustaceans, mollusks, worms and algae. Natural predators of these birds include ravens, peregrine falcons and sometimes sea otters. However, introduced predators, such as foxes on the Aleutian Islands, have had serious impacts on populations. Oil exploration, oil spills, and commercial fishing have also caused declines.

Puffins display a variety of bright colours in the breeding season, and so have excellent colour vision!