This is the only Atlantic auk of its size, half the size of the Atlantic Puffin at 19-21 cm in length, with a 34-38 cm wingspan. Adult birds are black on the head, neck, back and wings, with white underparts. The bill is very short and stubby. They have a small rounded black tail. The lower face and fore neck become white in winter. The flight is direct, with fast whirring wing beats due to the short wings.

Habitat and Distribution

Their breeding habitat is coastal mountainsides, where they have large colonies. They move south in winter into northern areas of the north Atlantic. Late autumn storms may carry them south of their normal wintering areas, or into the North Sea. The Little auks breed on islands in the high Arctic. There are two subspecies: A. a. alle breeds in Greenland, Iceland, Novaya Zemlya and Spitsbergen, and A. a. polaris on Franz Josef Land.


These birds forage for food like other auks by swimming underwater. They mainly eat crustaceans, especially copepods, but also other small invertebrates along with small fish.


They nest in crevices or beneath large rocks, usually laying just one egg.

Calls and Songs

Little Auks produce a variety of twitters and cackling calls at the breeding colonies, but are silent at sea.