Crested Auklet

Aethia cristatella


Cameron Eckert
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eBird Checklist S34054005
Qikiqtaruk--Collinson Head
Yukon, Yukon Territory, Canada
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Latitude and Longitude 69.5764, -138.8474 Map


Media notes

Cameron Eckert field notes after seeing the 10th Crested Auklet.

Observation details

The first record of Crested Auklet for Herschel Island and the Yukon. All flying west. I made quick field notes after the first 3 flew past, and then made more detailed field notes after the 9&10th birds flew past. A total of 10 birds flew past as follows; 3 at 4pm, 2 at 5pm, 2 at 5:15pm, 1 at 5:32pm, and 2 at 6:35pm. At times I had Crested Auklets flying in the same view with a Black Guillemot and a Thick-billed Murre which provided a direct comparison for size, shape, and flight characteristics. I had a fairly good view of the first 3 birds, and though it was a total shock, recognized them as Crested Auklets; and as 7 more birds flew past I honed in on specific details. I tried to photograph the birds, and though extremely challenging, did manage to get the last 2 birds in the camera. The birds appear as a tiny dark smudge in the photo. My notes copied below are in two sections; after the first 3 birds, and after the final two birds: FIRST NOTES: 22 June 2016, Collinson Head, 4pm. 3 auklets fly past ~1 to 3/4km off shore. Slightly smaller than BLGU, much smaller than TBMU. All dark grey body, head, wings, underwings, and under tail. Fast but lanky in flight, not a buzz bomb like a murrelet. Sort of chesty-looking with a lot of head out front. Head up, rear down in flight, not extreme, but not horizontal. Landed briefly and seemed a bit fluttery and then took off again. Going West. Flight posture reminded me of Ancient Murrelet. Face and bill could not be discerned, but head and neck appeared slate grey. Rocking back and forth in flight - but could see underwings, so not super-fast. The lanky flight suggested longish wings for an alcid. A Thick-billed Murre flew right past as they flew for size comparison. SECOND NOTES: 22 June 2016. Sea-watch from Collinson HEad, Herschel Island, Yukon. Cameron D. Eckert. 3pm to 9pm. Crested Auklets 10!! During the sea-watch I observed a total of 10 Crested Auklets fly heading NW past Colling Head. The times were 3@4pm; 2@5pm; 2@5:15pm, 1@5:32pm; 2@6:35pm. Distances franged from 300m to 1km using 20-60 scope; from a 30m-high cliff-top position. These were all medium-small all-dark alcids with compact bodies, flying fast, rocing back and forth with quick wing beats; flying very low to the water. Flight was directional but much livlier than ducks or TBMUs, though the murres also rock side to side. I saw them in direct comparison with TBMU, Long-tailed Duck, loons, and one Black Guillemot. In size they looked slightly smaller than BLGU, but not tiny like a smaller murrelet or auklet. Notably smaller than TBMU though. IN shape, looked stocky-bodied, and front heavy with a large head and no real tail visible. The wings were long and pointed, though a rounded trail edge to primaries. Fully 1/2 the bird appeared to be in front of the mid-point of wings - emphasizing the large head. The colour throughout was slate-grey; appearing dark grey at further distances. I could see very clearly on all 10 birds that the wings, back, belly, rump, tail, head, and neck were entirely grey. The wing beats were not so fast that I could not see the underwings - quite visible and grey. It was the 8th bird that flew closest - maybe about 300m or closer. I could see the orange bill, and single white streak behind they eye. The bill and face details could not be seen on more distant birds, but all other features of the birds were the same. All Crested Auklets. The flight profile was head higher than tail, like an Ancient Murrelet. At times with a chesty look. At times, some birds looked a bit lanky-winged, and also somewhat of a flutter with the 3 birds landed briefly - this gave them a long-winged look for an alcid. The size, body colour, shape and flight behaviour, and detail of face and bill all confirm Crested Auklet. This was following a storm with 25-40knot west winds.

Technical Information

iPhone 6s
Lens model
iPhone 6s back camera 4.15mm f/2.2
Focal length
4.2 mm
Shutter speed
1/40 sec
Flash did not fire, auto
Original file size
3662 x 3001

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