Rhinoceros Auklet

This photograph was taken by Chuqui on flickr at the , Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport, Oregon.

The Rhinoceros Auklet is not very well known but it is considered, by some, to be part of the puffin family. They are debating on whether they should rename it the Rhinoceros Puffin since it is so closely related to the puffin family.

Is a puffin a puffin by any other name?

Apparently. This puffin has many names: Cerorhinca monocerata, the Rhino Auklet, the Horn-billed Puffin or the Unicorn Puffin. (I think I prefer the latter but I’ll try to use all of them to get us accustomed to them all.) This cute little bird gets its name because of the horn-like extension on its beak but they only get this fancy beak when they are ready to breed. And it, like all puffin’s bills, sheds it sheath every year.

The Unicorn Puffin lives in colonies on the ocean shores much like the three other puffins. They prefer the North Pacific Ocean breading all along it from California to the Aleutian Islands in Alaska. They can also be found in Japan, North Korea and Sakhalin Island in Asia. They spend their winters in the water and their summers breeding near the water.

They like to eat small fish, krill and squid. According to Wikipedia,

“they feed inshore during the breeding season in the midwater. To catch their prey, they dive to as deep as 57 meters (187 ft) for as long as 148 seconds.” Interesting swimmer fishing.

The Cerorhincas evolved in the Miocene period, some 23.03 to 5.33 million years ago. That is a long time. This is an old species. There once was at least 3 other varieties of the cerorhincas (the Dubious Auklet — wonder what he was dubious about, perhaps the fishers that made him disappear?, the Cerorhinca minor and the Cerorhinca reai) but they have all disappeared now and only the Rhino Auk are left.

But it still has the other 3 puffins out there. I hope we can ensure they all survive for a very, very, very long time.