Family Auks (Alcidae)

Least Concern

Whiskered Auklet (Aethia pygmaea)


French: Starique pygmée German: Bartalk Spanish: Mérgulo bigotudo

Alca pygmæa

J. F. Gmelin

, 1789,

Bering Sea


Analysis of mtDNA suggests that present species and A. cristatella form a clade, with A. psittacula a close relative of the two. Birds from Kuril Is were separated as race camtschatica on basis of different body size, but recent studies confirm existence only of simple clinal variation, size increasing from E to W. Monotypic.


NE Sea of Okhotsk (Penzhin Gulf, Yamskiye Is, Iony I) and Commander Is S to at least C Kuril Is, and throughout Aleutians E to Four Mountains Is and Krenitzen Is. Winters mostly near breeding locations, but S as far as Japan, and casual in N Bering Sea (e.g. St Lawrence I).

Descriptive notes

17–18 cm; c. 116 g (99–136 g); wingspan c. 37 cm. Unique head pattern, with long recurved crest on forehead drooping forward over small white-tipped scarlet bill... read more


Calls sound high-pitched compared to most other species of Aethia, except A. pusilla... read more


Offshore and along sea coasts. Breeds on bare to partially covered talus slopes and beach boulder... read more

Food and feeding

Diet throughout year marine zooplankton, with 42 different prey taxa identified during a breeding-season study at three islands in the... read more


Breeding phenology poorly known. Spring arrival Apr to early May; laying probably late May and early Jun, sometimes advanced; hatching and... read more


Distribution and movements outside breeding season poorly known. Returns to colonies Apr to early... read more

Status and conservation

Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Total population small, second-rarest alcid in Alaska. Numbers poorly known, but coarse estimates in 1990s indicated minimum of 100,... read more

Recommended citation

Nettleship, D.N. & Kirwan, G.M. (2019). Whiskered Auklet (Aethia pygmaea). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 6 December 2019).