RHINOCEROS AUKLET (Cerorhinca monocerata)
A pigeon-sized seabird measuring 14.5–15.5 inches (37–39 cm). Dark above with lighter gray throat and breast, white underparts. Slender pale yellow bill, white eye. In breeding plumage, short upright “horn” at base of bill, with white drooping “whiskers” at either side; white plume above eye. Immature are dark gray above, light below with duller, smaller bill and dark eye.
Feeds on fish offshore; digs deep burrows in grassy or timbered headlands.
One white egg, often spotted, in a burrow. Nests in colonies, sometimes in large numbers.
Breeds from Aleutians south to central California. Winters off breeding grounds and south to southern California. Also in Asia.
Low growling notes.
Auklet is a misnomer, since this bird is not a close relative of the small, plankton-feeding alcids called auklets but is actually related to the more brightly coloured, parrot-billed puffins. Rhinoceros auklets feed on the open sea during the day but may be seen at sunset in summer among inlets and islands. They swim and bob with a beak full of fish, waiting for nightfall before venturing ashore to feed their young. The breeding colony on Triangle Island has a significant population with approximately 41,700 breeding pairs. The eggs are incubated for 39 to 45 days after which the egg hatches. When the chick is between 38–60 days old it will fledge the nest. Rhinoceros auklets begin to breed when they are three to five years old. Their nests are very long underground burrows (20 feet). Around the Pacific Northwest these birds leave their nests at first light to avoid predation and fly up into Haro & Juan de Fuca Straits to feed all day. Now, once in a while we have the pleasure of coming across some rhinos who clearly have too much food in their bellies. When they make that valiant attempt of trying to gain flight, often what you will see is them awkwardly skipping across the water’s surface like a stone.