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© Copyright: Images: Jari Peltomäki, Jouko Lehmuskallio, M., W. & F. von Wright: Svenska fåglar (Kansalliskirjasto, The National Library of Finland), Pohjolan linnut värikuvin. Recording: Jan-Erik Bruun. All rights reserved.

Black Guillemot

Cepphus grylle

  • Family: Auks – Alcidae
  • Appearance: A smallish black auk, with a large white wing patch. Beak narrow and sharp-ended. Winter plumage more black and white.
  • Size: Length 32–38 cm (12,5–15 in), wingspan 49–58 cm (19–23 in), weight 380–575 g (15–23 oz).
  • Nest: Eggs laid on bare rocky ground or in hollows or cracks among rocks, with small stones used as nest material.
  • Breeding: 2(–3) eggs laid May-June, incubated by both parents for 29 days. Fledglings leave nest after about 40 days when still unable to fly due to their bulky build, but subsequently become independent.
  • Distribution: Found in Finland’s outer archipelagos, in numbers totalling 7,000–11,000 pairs. Breeds in colonies.
  • Migration: Flies south from August till early winter, returning March-April. Some birds may stay in Finland if the sea does not freeze over, but some migrate to southern waters of the Baltic.
  • Diet: Bottom-feeding fish, mainly gunnels and gobies, as well as sand-eels and other more mobile fish. Can bring several fish at once back to young at nest, carried crosswise in beak.
  • Calls: High-pitched trembling whistle, or a “tiist tist tist” call resembling Rock Pipit.
  • Endangerment: Endangered, protected in Finland. Globally Least concern.

Adults’ plumage is completely black, except for a large white wing patch. In their winter plumage, Black Guillemots have more white markings, and look very pale from a distance, with white heads and underparts and greyish streaked upperparts, as well as the completely white wing patch. Young birds resemble adults in winter plumage, but looks shabbier, and have grey spots on their white wing patches.

Black Guillemots’ legs are red (mature birds) or reddish brown (young birds). They have black beaks and brown irises.

Black Guillemots fly with rapid wingbeats, close to the water, and leaning their bodies from side to side.

Other species from the same family

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