BIRDS OF ICELAND : Alle alle, dovekie

Alle alle;The little auk or dovekie as it is known in the America's, is by far the smallest auk of the Atlantic (size: a little smaller than a redwing or blackbird). It used to be a breeding bird off the north coast of Iceland - more or less restricted to the far northern island of Grimsey. It has however, become extinct as a breeding bird on Iceland. Nevertheless, it is still a regular appearance along the coastal seas of Iceland outside the breeding period. At this point I would like to make a critical remark on the general conception on warm-blooded animal (= mammals and birds) dispersal. The general theory is that in colder climates individuals of closely related species tend to be larger in size and smaller in individual numbers (population size) in colder climates. The reasoning behind this theory is that larger animals lose less warmth per surface unit than smaller animals due to their larger body volume and thus are more efficiƫnt in food exploitation. Advocates of this theory use the logics of this advantage on the population level and then name some examples fitting their theory. However, they never mention the species that do not fit this reasoning. The dovekie is but one example that refutes the theory of efficient body size in populations in colder climates. Another hefty example I can think of is the larger red fox of Europe's milder climates vs. the smaller arctic fox. The lesson is that one always has to be suspicious of the "simple biological theories".

The photo was kindly provided by Ian L. Jones who is Assistant Professor and Associate Chair of the Atlantic Cooperative Wildlife Ecology Research Network, at the Department of Biology, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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A brief introduction to Iceland birds
Text & Photographs by Dick Vuijk
- unless stated otherwise

This photo has kindly been made available by the Atlantic Cooperative Wildlife Ecology Research Network / Department of Biology, Memorial University of Newfoundland, photo by Ian L. Jones

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