Little Auk

Alle alle (Linnaeus, 1758) LK LITAU 6470
Family: Charadriiformes > Alcidae

Little Auk, Yoav Perlman

This diminutive auk, not much larger than a Starling, is a winter visitor to our coastal waters in varying numbers.

The Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard holds around 90% of the world’s breeding Little Auks. Estimates for the world breeding population are difficult to assess but the European estimate of around 80 million individuals gives some insight into the numbers involved.

After the breeding season Little Auks head south to their wintering areas. The northern part of the North Sea is an important wintering location for Little Auks and the birds remain at sea throughout the winter months, only being seen close to shore when driven there by winter storms. Occasional reports of individuals found far inland are associated with particularly rough storms.

Select a topic for more facts and statistics about the Little Auk

  • Breeding
  • Winter


Little Auk identification is often straightforward. The following article may help when identifying Little Auk.

related video

Identifying winter Auks

Summer Auks, in breeding plumage, at the shore or near to their colonies are relatively easy to identify. But in autumn and winter we tend to see them flying rapidly past, far offshore, or bobbing around in heavy seas offering poor views. When you add to this that their distinctive breeding plumage and colouring is lost, winter Auks can be a serious challenge to identify and separate.

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Status and Trends

Population size and trends and patterns of distribution based on BTO surveys and atlases with data collected by BTO volunteers.


This species can be found on the following statutory and conservation listings and schedules.



Little Auks are scarce but regular autumn passage migrants and winter visitors, often driven south after strong northerly gales. Most records were from North Sea coastal squares from Shetland south to Kent, though they also occurred along the south coast of England. Little Auks are relatively scarce in west-coast and Irish waters.

Occupied 10-km squares in UK

European Distribution Map

European Breeding Bird Atlas 2



Little Auks are late autumn passage migrants and winter visitors, often associated with winter storms.

Weekly occurence of Little Auk from BirdTrack
Weekly occurrence patterns (shaded cells) and reporting rates (vertical bars) based on BirdTrack data. Reporting rates give the likelihood of encountering the species each week.


Information about movement and migration based on online bird portals (e.g. BirdTrack), Ringing schemes and tracking studies.


View a summary of recoveries in the Online Ringing Report.


Lifecycle and body size information about Little Auk, including statistics on nesting, eggs and lifespan based on BTO ringing and nest recording data.



Feather measurements and photos on featherbase


For information in another language (where available) click on a linked name

Gaelic: Colcach-bheag
Welsh: Carfil Bach
Catalan: gavotí atlàntic
Czech: alkoun malý
Danish: Søkonge
Dutch: Kleine Alk
Estonian: väikealk e. ürr
Finnish: pikkuruokki
French: Mergule nain
German: Krabbentaucher
Hungarian: alkabukó
Icelandic: Haftyrðill
Irish: Falcóg Bheag
Italian: Gazza marina minore
Latvian: mazais alks
Lithuanian: mažoji alka
Norwegian: Alkekonge
Polish: alczyk
Portuguese: torda-miúda
Slovak: alkovec drobný
Slovenian: rakovicar
Spanish: Mérgulo atlántico
Swedish: alkekung
Folkname: Dovekie

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