Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Black Guillemot

Cepphus grylle
Guillemots, Puffins, Murrelets, and Auks all belong to the same family-- Alcidae. They are like the Northern Hemisphere's answer to Penguins (black & white, live in cold waters, dive for fish)... only they can actually fly!

Black Guillemots are one of a several Alcid species that live near the waters of the North Atlantic and Arctic Oceans. They breed on the coasts, congregating in colonies that can number more than 20,000 birds. One interesting tidbit is that these birds look different depending on how far north they live. The higher the latitude, the more white they have on them. Some of these normally black birds can be entirely white in their winter feathers, with the exception of black wings.

These birds are wonderful swimmers, and can fly decently to boot. Walking? Well... it's a little funny looking. It's no wonder that these birds get all of their food from the water-- they are able to dive down several dozen feet, using their wings to paddle. A Black Guillemot can hold its breath for about two and a half minutes, and they feed on fish, crustaceans, and mollusks. After catching a fish, the Guillemot actually carries it back crosswise in its beak.

Black Guillemots are currently listed at Least Concern, but that may someday change. Because they feed only near the surface of the water they are susceptible to the pollutants that congregate there. Oils, pesticides, and Mercury have all been found in the birds and their eggs.

IUCN Status : Least Concern
Location : Atlantic
Size : Body length around 14in (36cm)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Aves -- Order : Charadriiformes
Family : Alcidae -- Genus : Cepphus -- Species : C. grylle
Image : Brette Soucie

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