DovekieAlle alle (Linnaeus)
Status Common in winter, very rare in summer. The first sightings of Dovekies are generally in late October (average 1 November, earliest 15 October). They are abundant offshore from November to April, especially along the edge of the Scotian Shelf southwest of Sable Island, but are rarely seen inshore in numbers except during large "wrecks" of weakened birds during late fall (see Remarks). However, hundreds of evidently lively birds are regularly seen on Christmas Bird Counts at Brier Island about 500 were reported there on 31 December 1966 and again on 20 December 1973. They are rarely recorded in spring, although many were seen off Sable Island as late as 15 May 1977. There are few records for summer. One collected by Scott (1959) about 2 km south of Ram Island, Shelburne County, on 18 June 1957 was a female without enlarged ovarian follicles. Others were reported on 16 July 1968 at Broad Cove, Victoria County, and near the Lurcher Lightship off Yarmouth on 3 and 26 July 1969.
Description Length: 19-23 cm. Adults in summer: Upperparts glossy black; neck and breast sooty brown; lower breast and belly white; stubby, sparrow-like bill. Adults in winter: Similar but throat and breast white, the breast often tinged with gray.
Range Breeds on the coasts of Greenland and on the high Arctic islands east to western Siberia; there are also very small populations on Baffin Island and Iceland and in the Bering Sea. The bulk of the world population of more than 14 million birds nests in northwestern Greenland and winters off Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, and occasionally further south.
Remarks This little black and white, web-footed, robin-size bird with "no neck" is often picked up near the coast or even well inland in a weakened condition or dead. The following cases are typical: an estimated 1,000 were seen in Sydney Harbour on 25 October 1930, some of which, when picked up and tossed into the air, were able to fly away (A.A. Bayley); one caught by hand on a freshwater lake at Albany, Kings County, approximately 30 km from salt water, on 19 November 1941 was too weak to take off or even dive when approached; and between 11 and 23 December 1932 nofewer than 22 Dovekies, dead or very weak, were brought to me, having been picked up at various points in Kings County.
Dovekies are notoriously liable to being driven, often in large numbers, far outside their normal winter range by storms; one such bird reached Cuba! Theories advanced by ornithologists to explain this tendency are linked to storms and high gales at sea, and to the food shortages that directly result. Murphy and Vogt (1933) have written a detailed account of this spectacular phenomenon.
Quite at home on the broad ocean, Dovekies drift about in winter, feeding on the plankton that is everywhere abundant when weather conditions are favourable. However, when very rough weather strikes, this minute marine life sinks to low, inaccessible levels, causing a serious food shortage for the Dovekies when storms are prolonged.
The Dovekie is known to residents along the coasts of Nova Scotia by the name "bull-bird," or"ice bird."
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