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Black Guillemot

Cepphus grylle ORDER: CHARADRIIFORMES FAMILY: ALCIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

A Black-And-White bird of the northern seas, the Black Guillemot breeds along the coasts of Canada and Greenland. Unlike other members of the puffin family, it prefers to forage in relatively shallow near-shore waters.

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At a GlanceHelp

Measurements
Both Sexes
Length
11.8–12.6 in
30–32 cm
Wingspan
20.5–22.8 in
52–58 cm
Weight
11.3–17.1 oz
320–485 g
Other Names
  • Guillemot à miroir (French)

Cool Facts

  • The Black Guillemot carries fish crosswise in its bill. Some adults seem to show a preference for the direction in which the fish heads point; this "handedness" may be related to the selection of foraging sites.
  • The Black Guillemot can stay underwater for up to 2 minutes and 20 seconds.
  • The Black Guillemot shows a considerable amount of geographic variation in the amount of white in its winter plumage. Higher-latitude populations show more white background color than do southern populations, and can be nearly pure white with black wings.
  • The Black Guillemot breeds colonially, with different densities at different sites. Colonies tend to be smaller in the southern portion of breeding range, perhaps because prey is more widely distributed. In the high Arctic, where food is more concentrated, some colonies have 2,000-10,000 pairs.

Habitat


Ocean

Nests on rocky coastlines; forages in near-shore waters.

Food


Fish

Fish, crustaceans, and marine invertebrates.

Nesting

Nesting Facts
Clutch Size
1–2 eggs
Egg Description
Dull white to pale green, boldly marked with dark spots and blotches.
Condition at Hatching
Covered with black down and can move about on land.
Nest Description

Nest may consist of shells, pebbles, seaweed, and bones, or egg may be laid directly on rock with no nest material at all. Placed on rocky coast, often under overhang or boulder, or in a cavity.

Nest Placement

Cliff

Behavior


Surface Dive

In courtship display, male stands upright, points bill down, and walks around female with exaggerated steps.Shows various lunges, turns of the head, and other posturing in territorial interaction with other Black Guillemots.Dives under water to capture prey, using its wings to swim. Small prey swallowed under water; larger items brought to surface.

Conservation

status via IUCN

Least Concern

Lack of accurate census data makes determination of population trends difficult. The Black Guillemot is more susceptible to ingestion and biomagnification of marine pollution than other alcids because it takes prey from shallow water or at the sea floor. Studies have shown accumulation of mercury, pesticides, and crude oil residues in body tissues and eggs. Oiling of feathers from spills at sea usually results in death. Global warming may also affect populations.

Credits

  • Butler, R. G., and D. E. Buckley. 2002. Black Guillemot (Cepphus grylle). In The Birds of North America, No. 675 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Birds of North America, Inc., Philadelphia, PA.

Range Map Help

Black Guillemot Range Map
View dynamic map of eBird sightings