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A Rhinoceros Auklet glides gracefully through the azure waters of Monterey Bay, its distinctive beak and elegant motion capturing the essence of marine life

Elkhorn Slough, a coastal paradise nestled between Santa Cruz and Monterey, is a haven for a wide array of avian species. Among these unique inhabitants are the Cassin’s Auklet and Rhinoceros Auklet, two distinctive auklet species that grace the waters of this picturesque sanctuary. In this article, we’ll dive into the fascinating world of these auklets and explore their characteristics, habitats, and roles in the ecosystem.

Cassin’s Auklet: A Coastal Gem

The Cassin’s Auklet (Ptychoramphus aleuticus) is a small seabird known for its striking appearance and distinctive vocalizations. With its slate-gray plumage and white underparts, this auklet species adds a touch of elegance to the coastal environment of Elkhorn Slough.

Rhinoceros Auklet: Auklet with a Unique Feature

The Rhinoceros Auklet (Cerorhinca monocerata) stands out with its unique feature – a prominent horn-like projection on its bill during the breeding season. This charismatic auklet is a common sight along the slough’s waters, displaying its characteristic behavior.

Habitat and Behavior

Both the Cassin’s Auklet and Rhinoceros Auklet are seabirds that thrive in the marine habitats near Elkhorn Slough. Their specialized adaptations, such as streamlined bodies for underwater foraging, enable them to navigate the coastal waters with agility.

Contributions to the Ecosystem

These auklets play a crucial role in the ecosystem of Elkhorn Slough. As marine predators, they help regulate the populations of small fish and invertebrates, contributing to the balance of the coastal food web.

Conservation and Future

The presence of Cassin’s Auklet and Rhinoceros Auklet serves as a reminder of the delicate interconnectedness of marine and coastal ecosystems. As we appreciate their unique beauty, we are reminded of the importance of preserving these habitats for the benefit of these auklets and the entire ecosystem.


The Cassin’s Auklet and Rhinoceros Auklet are shining examples of the diversity and wonder that Elkhorn Slough has to offer. Their distinct appearances, behaviors, and roles in the ecosystem add to the richness of this coastal haven. As we explore the tranquil waters and observe these auklets in their natural habitat, let us celebrate their presence and continue to work towards the conservation of the precious ecosystems they call home.