One of the most charismatic, yet underappreciated birds on the planet has got to be the Crested Auklet (Aethia cristatella). Crested auklets are ridiculously goofy-looking birds during their summer breeding season.
Most species of seabirds are pretty unassuming in appearance, with a standard palette of blacks, greys, white, and browns, and the sexes are frequently similar. -Part of the reason for this contrast with much showier avian groups like parrots and songbirds is because of the parental investment that seabirds engage in. Most species are long-lived and only raise one or two chicks a year. In Crested Auklets, both parents engage in parental care, often sharing incubation and feeding duties – although at least one study showed that CRAU males tended to brood and defend chicks more often, while females tended to forage and bring food back for the chicks more often. This serial monogamy means that there is no pay-off for the male bird to copulate with as many females as possible, as they all already have a mate, a brood, and it takes a lot of work to care for and raise the single chick.
Posted in Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge, Aleutian Islands, Bering Sea, Birds, field camp, field work, fieldwork, invasive species, ornithology, outdoors, rats, seabirds, travel
I spent the summer of 2014 working on a tiny island at the boundary of the North Pacific and the Bering Sea. This island, Buldir, is one of about 300 in the Aleutian Island chain, which arcs out from mainland Alaska approximately 1,400 miles. Buldir itself is located in the far western portion of the island chain, making it one of the furthest away from the mainland, and also almost the most-western bit of the United States (Attu holds that distinction, three islands to the west). Buldir is closer to the Kamchatka Peninsula of Russia than it is to the United States. All in all, this was one of the most remote places on the planet, and I was incredibly lucky to have scored a position there for two months, along with six other young naturalists, monitoring the breeding seabird populations on the island. It was the experience of a lifetime.
Surrounded by the Pacific Ocean and the Bering Sea, Buldir is a true oceanic island in every sense of the word. It is home to hundreds of thousands of seabirds that come to the island to breed during the summer. In fact, Buldir is the most diverse seabird island in the world, acting as breeding grounds for 22 documented seabirds species. It is seabird heaven, the perfect place for someone like me – with my education in marine biology, experience in ornithology, and deep, abiding interest in the synthesis of the two in the form of SEABIRDS. And it was a transformative experience.
Posted in Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge, Aleutian Islands, Bering Sea, Birds, Buldir, Crested Auklets, fieldwork, ornithology, seabirds
Tagged Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge, alcids, Aleutian Islands, Bering Sea, biology, Buldir, Buldir Island, Crested Auklets, fieldwork, National Wildlife Refuge, North Pacific, ornithology, seabirds, USFWS, western Aleutians