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Rhinoceros Auklet Cerorhinca monocerata   - Adult in breeding plumage
Rhinoceros Auklet
Photographer : © Peter MacKenzie
Location :Teuri Island, Hokkaido, Japan
Date : 29 June 2009
English synonyms:Rhinoceros Auk, Horn-Bill Auk, Horn-billed Auk, Horn-billed Puffin, Hornbilled Puffin, Unicorn Auk, Rhinoceros Puffin, Horned Puffin
Bird Family :Alcidae - Auks, Dovekie, Murres, Guillemots, Auklets, Murrelets & Puffins
Bird Group :CICONIIFORMES
Red Data Status :Least Concern
Remarks :The world's largest breeding colony is on Teuri Island off the coast of norther Hokkaido in Japan. Brazil (2009) suggests that some 350,000 birds breed there.
The birds are readily observable from the ferry as you approach Teuri and they are abundant in the waters just below their colony at the far west of the island.
A walkway has been constructed over their burrows for viewing. During the day, it is deserted but at nightfall the birds start returning in their tens of thousands. Waiting for them are hundreds of Black-tailed Gulls and a few Slaty-backed Gulls intent on stealing the fish the auklets are carrying. Each alcid lands with an awkward thump in a cloud of dust and scurries to its burrow while gulls dash towards it. Happily, the gulls are slow and usually unsuccessful so most auklets get safely to their hole.
Once there are no more fish to fight over the gulls ignore the auklets and the auklets ignore the gulls - and the hundred or so tourists who are leaning over the railings with their cameras.
I watched for an hour from 7pm till 8pm, and still they were pouring in - thousands and thousands of them.
They are remarkably tame but by the time they arrive only flash photography is possible.
It was a remarkable spectacle! - PM