Little Auk (Alkekonge)

Little auks are a high-Arctc species that forage at open sea waters and breed in colonies on the coast in the high Arctic region. Little auks are highly vulnerable to surface oil. In winter they can be found further south to Skagerrak.


No image available yet. The smallest of the European auks. The bird is black and white, with a short stubby beak.

Vulnerability towards oil

Little auks spend the greater part of the time on the water, gathering of large flocks may lead to high mortalities.


  • May be oiled when swimming on the surface and diving for small crustaceans.
  • Oiled plumage will cause the bird to lose flotation and insulation.
  • No avoidance of oil slicks.


  • Little auks nest in rocky cliffs, in cracks or in hollows between rocks from high rock-falls, usually beween 50-300 m high, too high up to be vulnerable to shoreline oiling.
  • Some places it breeds between rocks on flat islands, and may be susceptible to shoreline oiling.
  • Most breed on the coast but they may also breed inland.


Typical environmental zone

  • Guillemot colonies are generally found in the outer coastal zone where they breed on open shelves in steep cliffs, often with Common guillemot/common murres and with kittiwakes.
  • Foraging range in the breeding season can be as much as 100 km from the coast.
  • Outside the breeding season guillemots may be found in large flocks of several alcid (auk) species in the open sea far from the coast. These flocks gather at eddies with high production and presence of fish prey.


Protection/oil spill combat

  • Special issues:
  • Colonies of auks usually have MOB A or B status
  • Barrier 3 and 4: Upstream protection of the colony by mechanical recovery of oil expected to drift in the direction of sea bird colonies
  • Upstream chemical dispersal of oil slicks should be considered if mechanical containment and recovery is not possible.
  • Barrier 5, shoreline cleanup should be prioritised on and surrounding the cliffs where sea birds rest. Cliffs can be cleaned by hosing the oil with water. Protect the surrounding areas from remobilised oil by fencing off with booms and using skimmers to collect oil.


Oiled birds

  • Dead birds should be collected for post-spill environmental surveys, which involves identification of the species. Handle only with protective equipment and store according to procedure for collecting
  • If operator policy requires, oiled live birds should be collected by specialists in wildlife rehabilitation for treatment. Specialists and veterinaries trained in rehabilitation will decide whether to euthanise or rehabilitate the animal.