Seabirds called cepphus
True guillemots, or simply guillemots, belong to a genus of seabirds called Cepphus. This group of birds is in the auk family and is found in coastal areas as far north as Alaska, New England and the Gulf of Maine.
They also reside in the British Isles and in Asia, along the northern coast. Cepphus includes three species: Black Guillemot ( grille), Pigeon Guillemot ( Columba), and the Spectacled Guillemot ( carob). The Black Guillemot especially likes islands located in high and low arctic areas.
The Black Guillemot is a striking bird with bright red feet and legs, and thin, dark bills. The inside of this bird's mouth is also bright red! During the breeding season, this bird's plumage is black from his bill to his tail, with white patches on his wings.
Winter plumage changes to a black and white plumage and the legs are not as bright red. At least seven sub-species of the Black Guillemot have been recorded. They vary in size of bill, body, wing length and color of plumage.
The Pigeon Guillemot is slightly larger than the Black Guillemot, but strongly resembles them with black plumage, white wing patches, bright red legs, feet, and a dark, narrow bill.
During the winter months, their plumage has variations of black and gray, with white under parts. The Pigeon Guillemot will show off dark wing linings when it is in flight, whereas the Black Guillemot does not.
The Spectacled Guillemot has "sooty" black plumage, no white markings on his wings, and has white markings on the face that resemble reading glasses, or spectacles. His under parts are white and tipped with a light grayish-brown color.
Winter plumage for this species is white below and mottled plumage above.
Breeding areas for all three species are typically islands and rocky shores on the northern coasts of the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. They'll lay their eggs in hidden crevices located either in a cliff, sometimes as high as 230 meters into the air, or at the base of the cliff.
Large stones and boulders with crevices are also favorite nesting places for these bird colonies of the Cepphus species. They've even been known to nest under pieces of driftwood or under rocks, if the rocks are shrouded with lush vegetation.
Guillemots will lay 2 eggs sometime between the late May and mid June. Both the male and female incubate the eggs for 28 to 32 days. The chicks hatch over a time period of three to four days, at which time the parents leave them in the nest alone.
The parents do continue to feed the chicks until they fledge at about 40 days old. Guillemot chicks eat up to 20 fish every day! At the age of three or four years old, the new guillemot chicks will themselves begin to breed.
The guillemot species are a pelagic bird species. They are naturally swimming birds, diving into the cold water from the surface, to catch their prey. Cepphus species are fish-eating birds, but also enjoy feasting on mollusks, crustaceans, insects, and some vegetation.
Breeding season usually keeps these birds close to the shores and diving for food at pretty shallow depths, not more than 50 meters or so. The Black guillemot, unlike the other two
species, will venture out into the open sea, feeding along edges of pack ice.
Guillemots are not an endangered species. In fact, they are a thriving bird species and continue to do well despite oil spills and other human-induced impacts on their habitat
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