Photo: Roy W. Lowe/USFWS/Wikimedia Commons

Pigeon Guillemot

Cepphus columba

Along the Pacific Coast from Alaska to California, this auk is generally found very close to rocky shores. Pairs may nest in colonies or in isolation. It is strikingly patterned in the breeding season, when the red-orange legs and mouth lining may be important signals in courtship.
Conservation status Total population not well known, but probably has declined in recent decades. Vulnerable to oil spills and other pollution. Breeding attempts may fail in years of unusually warm water temperatures, so climate change is a concern.
Family Auks, Murres, Puffins
Habitat Rocky coasts, inshore waters. Breeds on rocky islands and on mainland cliffs inaccessible to predators. At sea usually close to rocky shorelines, less often far out over continental shelf. In Bering Sea may be far from land around openings and edges of pack ice.
Along the Pacific Coast from Alaska to California, this auk is generally found very close to rocky shores. Pairs may nest in colonies or in isolation. It is strikingly patterned in the breeding season, when the red-orange legs and mouth lining may be important signals in courtship.
Photo Gallery
  • adults, breeding
  • juvenile
  • adult, nonbreeding
  • adult, breeding
  • adult, breeding
Feeding Behavior

Forages by diving and swimming underwater, propelled mainly by wings. Uses feet mostly for steering but also, unlike most auks, for some propulsion underwater. Mostly forages by searching sea bottom; can dive as much as 150' below surface but most feeding is probably within 60' of surface.


Eggs

1-2. Creamy to pale blue-green, with gray and brown blotches concentrated near large end. Incubation is by both sexes, 26-32 days. Young: Both parents feed young, bringing them small fish at all hours of day, especially in early morning. Young leave nest 29-54 days after hatching, usually at night, scrambling or fluttering down to water. Able to swim and dive immediately, but not capable of strong flight for another 2-3 weeks.


Young

Both parents feed young, bringing them small fish at all hours of day, especially in early morning. Young leave nest 29-54 days after hatching, usually at night, scrambling or fluttering down to water. Able to swim and dive immediately, but not capable of strong flight for another 2-3 weeks.

Diet

fish and other marine life. Diet varies with season and location. Eats mostly small fish, also shrimps, crabs, polychaete worms, mollusks, small octopus.


Nesting

First breeds at age 3-5 years. Courtship displays by members of pair include mutual circling and bill-touching. Rapid zigzag chases on water near colony may also be involved in courtship. Nest site, probably chosen by male, is in crevice or cave, among boulders, in abandoned burrow, under driftwood or debris. May also excavate own nest burrow. Same site usually re-used for several years. Nest is shallow scrape in pile of dirt, pebbles, shells.

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

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

Migration

Northernmost breeders in Alaska move south in winter to edge of pack ice. Birds from center of range (British Columbia to Oregon) may be permanent residents of that region. Many California birds apparently move north after breeding, as far as British Columbia.

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Migration

Northernmost breeders in Alaska move south in winter to edge of pack ice. Birds from center of range (British Columbia to Oregon) may be permanent residents of that region. Many California birds apparently move north after breeding, as far as British Columbia.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
High thin whistles and 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

Pigeon 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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