Photo: Sue/Flickr Creative Commons

Black Guillemot

Cepphus grylle

In the northeast, this bird may be seen swimming and diving around rocky shorelines. A "Black" Guillemot only in summer, it looks mostly frosty white in winter. Very similar to Pigeon Guillemot of Pacific Coast, and overlaps with it locally in Alaska.
Conservation status Wide range and scattered nesting sites probably help ensure survival. Has declined in some areas after introduction of mink or rats to nesting areas. Since 1960s, numbers wintering in Massachusetts have increased noticeably.
Family Auks, Murres, Puffins
Habitat Inshore waters of ocean; breeds on rocky shores, islands. Usually close to shore in shallow waters, but may be far offshore, especially around edges of pack ice. Sometimes feeds on freshwater lakes near coast. Nests along rocky shores, low cliffs, among debris on beaches.
In the northeast, this bird may be seen swimming and diving around rocky shorelines. A "Black" Guillemot only in summer, it looks mostly frosty white in winter. Very similar to Pigeon Guillemot of Pacific Coast, and overlaps with it locally in Alaska.
Photo Gallery
  • adult, breeding
  • adult, breeding
  • adult, nonbreeding
  • adult, breeding
Feeding Behavior

Forages while swimming underwater. Most foraging within 30' of surface, may rarely dive more than 100'.


Eggs

1-2. Whitish to pale blue-green, spotted with black, brown, gray. Incubation is by both sexes, 23-39 days. Young: Both parents feed young, carrying fish in bill to nest. Young depart from nest 31-50 days after hatching, before able to fly; scramble down to water alone, apparently independent after leaving.


Young

Both parents feed young, carrying fish in bill to nest. Young depart from nest 31-50 days after hatching, before able to fly; scramble down to water alone, apparently independent after leaving.

Diet

Varies with place and season. May include more fish in southern part of range, more crustaceans farther north. Fish in diet (mainly those living near bottom in shallow waters) include butterfish, blennies, sculpins, gobies, sand lance, cod, many others. Crustaceans include crabs, shrimps, mysids, amphipods, copepods, isopods. Also eats some mollusks, insects, marine worms, bits of plant material.


Nesting

Usually first breeds at age of 4 years. Nests as isolated pairs or in colonies. May perform communal display: one or several birds strut with high-stepping walk, neck upstretched; may assume similar posture in water, leading to chases and diving. Members of pair face each other and bob heads, calling, sometimes touching bills. Nest site is in boulder pile, crevice near base of cliff, under driftwood or debris; usually close to water, rarely more than mile inland. Pair may re-use same site each year. Nest is thin layer of pebbles or debris, sometimes mere scrape in soil.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
Learn more about these drawings.

Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Migration

Largely permanent resident, overwintering as far north as open water allows, including openings and edges in pack ice. Small southward movement in winter brings some annually to Massachusetts, rarely farther.

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Migration

Largely permanent resident, overwintering as far north as open water allows, including openings and edges in pack ice. Small southward movement in winter brings some annually to Massachusetts, rarely farther.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
Shrill mouse-like squeaks.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
Learn more about this sound collection.

How climate change could affect this bird's range

In the broadest and most detailed study of its kind, Audubon scientists have used hundreds of thousands of citizen-science observations and sophisticated climate models to predict how birds in the U.S. and Canada will react to climate change.

Learn more

Read more: climate.audubon.org
Auks, Murres, Puffins Upright-perching Water Birds

Black Guillemot

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season.

More on reading these maps.

Each map is a visual guide to where a particular bird species may find the climate conditions it needs to survive in the future. We call this the bird’s “climatic range.”

The colors indicate the season in which the bird may find suitable conditions— blue for winter, yellow for summer (breeding), and green for where they overlap (indicating their presence year-round).

The darker the shaded area, the more likely it is the bird species will find suitable climate conditions to survive there.

The outline of the approximate current range for each season remains fixed in each frame, allowing you to compare how the range will expand, contract, or shift in the future.

The first frame of the animation shows where the bird can find a suitable climate today (based on data from 2000). The next three frames predict where this bird’s suitable climate may shift in the future—one frame each for 2020, 2050, and 2080.

You can play or pause the animation with the orange button in the lower left, or select an individual frame to study by clicking on its year.

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season. More on reading these maps.
Winter
Summer

Winter Range
Summer Range
Both Seasons
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