Logo du projet pour le Biodôme de Montréal See more of the Virtual Museum of Canada



A family affair



The auk (or alcidae) family is found only in the Northern Hemisphere. It consists of 23 species, although one disappeared in the 19th century. Four of them can be seen up close at the Biodôme. These birds all look rather alike, but each species has its own special characteristics.



Image: Atlantic puffin
Atlantic puffin

Atlantic puffin

These stocky, colourful birds have sad expressions and parrot-like bills. They are the clowns of the auk family.



















Image: common murre
common murre

Common murre

This species nest on even the narrowest of ledges — sites other birds can’t use.

Females lay their single pear-shaped eggs directly on the bare rock. Their shape makes them more stable than other bird eggs, so they are less likely to topple over the edge and break.

With their fancy dress outfits and pointed bills, these are the high-wire artists of the auk family.











Image: black guillemot
black guillemot

Black guillemot

In summer they are allmost dressed in black...
and in winter they turn nearly pure white.

At the Biodôme these eccentric members of the auk family don’t live with their cousins, but in the St. Lawrence Marine ecosystem.
















Video: razorbill auk

Razorbill auk

Auks have long but very slender wings, making them swift and agile swimmers. On the other hand, this type of wing gives them little lift for flying — to compensate, they beat their wings more quickly. See what happens…

This is how all auks fly. All except some large fellows, close cousins of the razorbill auk!









Image: great auk
great auk

Great auk

These lumbering giants were very clumsy on land and their tiny wings certainly couldn’t lift them into the air. Beneath the waves, however, their mass and fin-like wings made them the fastest and most powerful of all the auks. Unfortunately, you won’t see them at the Biodôme or anywhere else. Great auks have been extinct since 1844.










For more information:
"Pengwin" | Descriptive records


 Back: ecosystems  Arctic    
 Colourful beaks  A family affair    
Home   Français   Comments   Credits   Biodôme Website    © Biodôme de Montréal, 2005. All rights reserved