The auk (or alcidae) family is found only in the Northern Hemisphere. It consists of 23 species, although one disappeared in the 19th century. Four of them can be seen up close at the Biodôme. These birds all look rather alike, but each species has its own special characteristics.
The auk (or alcidae) family is found only in the Northern Hemisphere. It consists of 23 species, although one disappeared in the 19th century. Four of them can be seen up close at the Biodôme. These birds all look rather alike, but each species has its own special characteristics.

© Biodôme de Montréal, 2005. All rights reserved

Atlantic Puffin

These stocky, colourful birds have sad expressions and parrot-like bills. They are the clowns of the auk family.

Biodôme de Montréal

© Biodôme de Montréal, 2005. All rights reserved


Common Murre

This species nest on even the narrowest of ledges — sites other birds can’t use.

Females lay their single pear-shaped eggs directly on the bare rock. Their shape makes them more stable than other bird eggs, so they are less likely to topple over the edge and break.

With their fancy dress outfits and pointed bills, these are the high-wire artists of the auk family.

Biodôme de Montréal

© Biodôme de Montréal, 2005. All rights reserved


Black guillemot

In summer they are allmost dressed in black... and in winter they turn nearly pure white.

At the Biodôme these eccentric members of the auk family don’t live with their cousins, but in the St. Lawrence Marine ecosystem.

Biodôme de Montréal

© Biodôme de Montréal, 2005. All rights reserved


Razorbill Auk

Auks have long but very slender wings, making them swift and agile swimmers. On the other hand, this type of wing gives them little lift for flying — to compensate, they beat their wings more quickly. See what happens…

This is how all auks fly. All except some large fellows, close cousins of the razorbill auk!

Biodôme de Montréal

© Biodôme de Montréal, 2005. All rights reserved


Great Auk

These lumbering giants were very clumsy on land and their tiny wings certainly couldn’t lift them into the air. Beneath the waves, however, their mass and fin-like wings made them the fastest and most powerful of all the auks. Unfortunately, you won’t see them at the Biodôme or anywhere else. Great auks have been extinct since 1844.

Biodôme de Montréal

© Biodôme de Montréal, 2005. All rights reserved


Learning Objectives

The learner will:

Learn more about the ecosystems in the Americas;
Observe the diversity that each ecosystem offers regarding the flora, fauna as well as climate;
Identify the elements that shape different ecosystems, such as vegetation, wildlife, soil, etc.;
Develop different causes and consequences of human actions on ecosystems (from grade 4);
Formulate and justify possible solutions on issues, such as global warming, in order to preserve our ecosystems and biodiversity on Earth (from grade 6).

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