Status: Resident along all Irish coasts.
Conservation Concern: Amber-listed, due to concerns over the European population, which is currently regarded as Depleted due to a moderate historical decline.
Identification: A species of Auk, highly marine and only found on land in the breeding season. Smaller than Guillemot, and only slightly bigger than Puffin. Plump and heavy at the rear end, flies with head pointing up. Strikingly distinctive in the breeding season, with an all black plumage, white upperwing patches and red feet. Can look all dark, at a distance, in the breeding season. Very different in the winter when the bird is white below with white barring above, upperwing pattern very similar to the breeding season and useful in identifying the species at that time of year.
Similar Species: Other Auk species.
Call: Displaying birds voice a series of fine notes.
Diet: Marine fish and crustaceans.
Breeding: Nests amongst boulders at the base of cliffs, also in rock crevices and in man made structures, such as piers. Will nest singularly and in loose colonies.
Wintering: Winters in the vicinity of its breeding sites and can be seen inshore throughout the year.
Where to See: Lough Swilly in County Donegal, the Aran Islands off County Galway, Bray Head & Wicklow Head in County Wicklow, Cape Clear, County Cork and Rockabill Island, County Dublin are among the best breeding sites in Ireland.
Monitored by: Breeding seabirds are monitored through surveys carried out every 15-20 years, the last was Seabird 2000, which was undertaken between 1998 & 2002.