Birds of North Carolina:
their Distribution and Abundance
Dovekie - Alle alle
ALCIDAE Members:
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General Comments The Dovekie is, by far, the smallest of the six species of Atlantic alcids. It is one of three -- along with the Razorbill and the Atlantic Puffin -- that is somewhat regular off our coast in winter, though all alcids are quite erratic from week to week and month to month. Though there are many records of sick, oiled, or dead birds from along our beaches, healthy Dovekies are rarely seen from shore. One must normally take to the seas to find the species, and a winter-season pelagic trip off of Oregon or Hatteras inlets gives one a chance (perhaps 50-50) of seeing one to several Dovekies. On very rare occasions, over 100 Dovekies can be seen on a pelagic trip. Interestingly, all well inland records came from a single flight in late fall 1950.
Breeding Status Nonbreeder
NC BRC List Definitive
State Status
U.S. Status
State Rank SZ
Global Rank G5
Coastal Plain Mostly an offshore winter visitor, quite erratic from winter to winter. There were several notable flights between fall 1932 and late winter 1939, and another in late 1950; in recent years, one in Jan-Feb 2011 was quite remarkable. Generally, uncommon and erratic in winter in cold water offshore south to Cape Hatteras, and very rare to rare farther southward. Typically more numerous during severe weather, and later into the winter, as birds are driven southward from farther to the north (within the main part of the winter range); on occasions, can be quite numerous (dozens to 100 or more) on pelagic trips. There are many records from along the immediate coast, but hardly any from inside inlets or in the Tidewater or far inland zones; however, a remarkable flight in late 1950 led to several such records -- Lake Mattamuskeet (date not given), Dover (Craven), Kinston, and Rocky Mount -- all three being from 7-8 Dec 1950. Found mainly from early Nov to mid-Mar; however, there was a spate of records in Apr and early May 2013, including at least 24 found moribund in the Atlantic Beach vicinity from 19-21 Apr. One seen from Cape Hatteras Point on 27 May 1996 was extremely late; one at Cape Hatteras Point on 23 Oct 2017 was quite early. Peak counts: on pelagic trips out of Hatteras: 871 on 6 Feb 2011; 731 on 17 Feb 2020; 643 on 28 Jan 2011; 495 on 12 Feb 2011; from shore -- 331 counted at Cape Hatteras Point on 9 Feb 2021, and 219 counted from Cape Hatteras Point on 8 Mar 2021. Remarkably early in such numbers were 36, Atlantic Beach, 27 Nov 1966. Note: several old records of counts of 1,000 birds and 300 birds were made over periods of several weeks, and thus it is not clear if these represent single-day counts.
Piedmont Accidental. One record, during the memorable late 1950 flight, is from Raleigh on 7 or 8 Dec (1950) (Pearson et al., 1959).
Mountains No records.
Finding Tips To try to see the species in NC, you should sign up for a pelagic trip, preferably in Feb, to the cold waters off the northern coast. The boat trips out of Hatteras Inlet give one a reasonable chance for seeing it, though the birds are erratic from winter to winter, and then week to week within a given winter.
Attribution LeGrand[2021-09-03], LeGrand[2021-05-17], LeGrand[2020-04-18]
NC Map
Map depicts all counties with a report (transient or resident) for the species.
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