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Last updated on April 24, 2014 at 10:20 EDT

Pigeon Guillemot

The Pigeon Guillemot (Cepphus columba) is a medium-sized auk common to the Pacific. They closely resemble the other members of the genus Cepphus, particularly the Black Guillemot, which it is slightly larger than.

Adult birds have black bodies with a white wing patch broken by a black wedge, a thin dark bill and red legs and feet. They are similar in appearance to the Black Guillemot but show dark wing linings in flight. In winter, the upperparts are mottled grey and black and the underparts are white. They walk well and consistently have an upright posture.

Their breeding habitat is located on rocky shores, cliffs and islands, often in small loose colonies. They usually lay their eggs in rocky cavities sites near water, but will often nest in any available cavity including caves, disused burrows of other seabirds and even old bomb casings. Unusually for auks two eggs are laid. Unlike many alcids, Pigeon Guillemots are diurnal and feed the chicks constantly throughout the day, and consequently can fledge faster than equivalent sized auks that are only fed at night.

Pigeon Guillemots range across the Northern Pacific from the Kamchatka Peninsula in Siberia to coasts in western North America from Alaska to California. After the breeding season Alaskan birds migrate south to open waters, whereas some birds from California move north to the waters off British Columbia. Birds usually return to their natal colony to breed.

They dive for food from the surface, swimming underwater, feeding on benthic prey, usually obtained close to shore. They mainly eat fish and other aquatic animals, particularly sculpins, sandfish (Trichodon), cods, capelin, and crabs. Chick diet varies slightly, with more fish than invertebrates, particularly rockfish.

Pigeon Guillemot