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Murre and Razorbill.jpg
Common murre, Uria aalge
Razorbill auk, Alca torda
Scientific classification
Kingdom Information
Domain Eukaryota
Kingdom Animalia
Subkingdom Bilateria
Branch Deuterostomia
Phylum Information
Phylum Chordata
Sub-phylum Vertebrata
Infraphylum Gnathostomata
Class Information
Superclass Tetrapoda
Class Aves
Sub-class Neornithes
Infra-class Neoaves
Order Information
Superorder Passerimorphae
Order Charadriiformes
Infraorder Charadriides
Family Information
Superfamily Laroidea
Family Alcidae
Population statistics

Auks or alcids, a general term for 25 species of marine diving birds of the family Alcidae, and found in the higher latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere. The family includes auklets, murres, gillemots and puffins, with the word "auk" generally restricted to three species: the razorbill auk (Alca torda), the little auk (Alle alle), and the extinct great auk (Pinguinus impennis).


Auks are the northern equivalent of penguins, of which there is a resemblance in many ways. The body is stocky with a large head, and they bear a short neck, legs, and tail. Length varies among species, from 6.5 inches to 30 inches. Beaks are long and pointed (murres); deep and laterally compressed (razorbills, puffins); or stubby (little auks). Plumage is generally monochrome: black or brown above a white belly in most species, with the bold colors of the puffin's beaks being a striking exception.

Auks are excellent divers, using their half-folded wings as paddles underwater as they strike at prey. Their webbed feet are set far back on their bodies and used for steering; the position also gives them an upright appearance when standing, and an awkward gait when walking, similar to penguins. In fact, the largest of the auks - the great auk - was once known as the original penguin before those birds were discovered in the Southern Hemisphere.


Auks are known to take small fish, shellfish, worms, and crustaceans, but the principle prey is fish. Prey is taken in deep water, and several species usually hunt the same fishing area. Little to no competition occurs between the birds within the area, as they strike at differing sizes and types of prey; a puffin with catch small fish no more than two inches in length, while a larger murre with catch those fish double the size.


Family Alcidae