[Tweeters] Alcid identification help needed in Puget Sound

Sarah Guenther sarahguenther8 at gmail.com
Sun Apr 12 21:08:34 PDT 2015

I am on Carr Inlet in the Puget Sound and need some help on an alcid

At first I thought this unidentified bird was a marbled murrelet - it was
the same shape with its very short neck. I've seen marbled murrelets last
few months from this location with its usual black and white patterning.
But today it had brown/grey coloring which was new to me and I thought
perhaps it was transitioning into it's breeding colors. I was completely
settled on this ID, but...

The problem is that this bird had a white belly below the water line which
was visible the several times it stretched up to flap its wings. I read
that marbled murrelets in breeding plumage have a brown belly; this one
definitely had a white belly but only visible below the water line. The
breast was *maybe* greyish/brown with darker wings, but the colors were a
bit difficult due to being a little bit back-lit.

Then I tried to "make it" a rhinoceros auklet because of the coloring, but
for the life of me I couldn't see any horn or other distinguishing facial
characteristics. I had a good long look at it, but it was a little bit of a
distance in the afternoon light and I was using my scope. It's possible I
just wasn't close enough.

But I'm also wondering if maybe it's a juvenile of some sort, making the ID
difficult for me. It's tail feathers were not smooth in the back, there
were several out-of-place.

What should I be looking for next time this bird comes into my view to help
me make a positive ID. Since I'm spotting from my backyard, there's a good
chance I may catch sight of it again over the next couple weeks. It just
doesn't look like there are that many Alcid choices at this location.

Sarah G.
sarahguenther8 at gmail.com
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