Rhinoceros Auklet

Cerorhinca monocerata

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One of the most intriguing things about this small bird may be its name. First, it is not a true auklet, which is a species of plankton-feeding seabirds common to the Pacific coast which includes the Cassin’s Auklet. This bird is actually more closely related to the puffin and feeds on fish and squid instead of plankton. The “rhinoceros” part of its name references the small “horn” that is clearly visible at the base of the beak on breeding adults.

This species nests all along the coast of Oregon, digging long burrows in the soil of rocky outcroppings or finding refuge in natural caves. The bird is most active at night, making it one of several nocturnal seabirds, an adaptation which presumably helps it avoid predators. The Rhinoceros Auklet is also notable for one other thing: it is the only known surviving species in its genus Cerorhinca. Related birds were common throughout North America beginning in the mid-Miocene Epoch, or approximately 15 million years ago. Over time, all but the Rhinoceros Auklet have gone extinct.

Range and Habitat

All along the Pacific coast of North America from the Channel Islands in California to the Aleutian Islands in Alaska.

Conservation Status