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Black Guillemot

These medium-sized seabirds can be a common sight in the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions, primarily found along rocky shorelines and cliffs.

The Black Guillemot, or “sea pigeon” as it is sometimes known, is an arctic marine alcid that favors shallower, inshore waters for foraging. Two of the world’s five subspecies of Black Guillemots occur in North America. Relatives include the Pigeon Guillemot and Spectacled Guillemot.

Generally sedentary, Black Guillemots sometimes have to travel to avoid pack ice which prevents foraging. During the breeding season, they defend a nest burrow, though sometimes one entrance may lead to two burrows, in which case two pairs may share the same entrance.


Description of the Black Guillemot


The Black Guillemot is a small black seabird with a large white patch on each wing, red legs, a fairly long, slender neck, and a thin, black bill.

Black Guillemot

Photograph © Sam Crowe


Sexes similar.

Seasonal change in appearance

Becomes largely white with black wings and back in the winter.


Similar to winter adults but with less black in the wings.


Rocky coastlines.


Fish, shrimp, marine worms, and mollusks.

Black Guillemot

Photograph © Sam Crowe


Forages underwater by diving and swimming.


Breeds and winters in northern Alaska, coastal eastern Canada, and portions of the northeastern U.S.

Fun Facts

A majority of Black Guillemots return to the same nest site in subsequent years.

When foraging, small items can be swallowed underwater, but larger prey are brought to the surface first.


A long, high-pitched whistle when disturbed, and a variety of peeps and chips at other times.


Similar Species

The Pigeon Guillemot is very similar but has a black bar within the white wing patch.



The nest is a layer of pebbles in a rock crevice or under coastal debris.

Number: 3-4.
Color: Whitish or pale bluish with darker speckling.

Incubation and fledging:  
– Young hatch at 23-29 days.
– Young fledge (leave the nest) in 31-50 days.


Bent Life History of the Black Guillemot

Published by the Smithsonian Institution between the 1920s and the 1950s, the Bent life history series of monographs provide an often colorful description of the birds of North America. Arthur Cleveland Bent was the lead author for the series. The Bent series is a great resource and often includes quotes from early American Ornithologists, including Audubon, Townsend, Wilson, Sutton and many others.

Bent Life History for the Black Guillemot – the common name and sub-species reflect the nomenclature in use at the time the description was written.




The picturesque coast of Maine is deeply cut by numerous rockbound bays and harbors, protected by rugged promontories, and dotted with many attractive islands, where forests of pointed firs and spruces grow almost down to the water’s edge. It well deserves its popularity, for I can not imagine a more delightful coast for a summer cruise. Not the least of its attractions is this beautiful little “sea pigeon,” so common about all the rocky islands and harbors, where it skims away in front of us in a wide circle, flying close to the water, with its trim, little, black body swiftly propelled by the rapid movements of its wings, the white wing patches flashing in the sunlight and the bright red feet showing behind. It is interesting to watch it as it rises from the water ahead of the boat, flying forward at first until well ahead of us, then swinging in a long curve to one side, and finally dropping into the water again far astern; every bird seems to fly in exactly the same course, almost never flying straight away to one side, as other birds do. It is a handsome bird ~when held in the hand; its compact form, its velvet black plumage, glistening with a greenish luster, and its brilliant red feet and mouth make a rich and pleasing combination.

Spring: As the black guillemot does not wander far from its breeding range in winter, it has not far to go in the spring, but it usually withdraws from the Massachusetts coast during the first two weeks in April. Probably the birds which winter here breed on the coast of Maine, and a general northward movement occurs all through its range. On May 22 and 23. 1909, while cruising along the north shore of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, we saw a number of these birds, which were evidently migrating, for fewer birds were seen here on our return in June.

Courtship: Mr. John Walpole-Bond (1914) describes the courtship of the black guillemot as follows:

A pair engaged In amorous antics Is a pleasing sight. The male, recognizable by reason of his brighter plumage: there being no difference in the color of the two sexes: swims furiously after his ladylove, at times even literally running along the water in his ardor. He fails to catch her, Presently he tries fresh tactics. Waiting till she is up and floating, he hovers momentarily in the air above her, intending to drop suddenly on her back. Clumsy fellow that he is, he misses his mark, and once again she alludes his advances. So the chase continues until at length her swain’s repeated gallantries win the day.

Nesting: Its nest building consists in finding a suitable crevice, the more remote the better, under loose rocks or boulders on a beach above high-water mark or in some rocky cliff, where it is reasonably safe from the attacks of all its enemies except man, and where even he finds the labor of procuring the eggs rather more than they are worth, though they are excellent eating. Often the eggs are laid on the bare ground or rock, but more often on rough beds of pebbles, broken stones, or shells, which must be cold and uncomfortable nests for the downy young.

The largest and most interesting colony that I have ever seen was on Seal Island, 25 miles off the southern coast of Nova Scotia. Here, on the ocean side of the sea-girt isle, where great masses of waterworn bowiders are piled along the shore, the accumulated results of the many furious winter storms which sweep across the Atlantic, where the ocean swell rises and falls on the outer rocks and the flying spray of drifting fogs keep the beaches moist and cool, the black guillemots find a congenial summer home. During my pleasant visit with Mr. John Crowell, the lighthouse keeper and owner of this attractive island, I spent portions of two days, July 3 and 4, 1904, studying these birds. Mr. Crowell and his family are appreciative bird lovers and they guard with jealous care the “sea widgeons,” us they call them, whose breeding grounds are but a short distance from the house; consequently the birds are tamer and more friendly than I have ever seen them elsewhere. After considerable hard work, crawling over, under, and around the piled-up bowlders, sometimes almost standing on our heads, we succeeded in finding about half a dozen nests, aided by the droppings and feathers in the pathways leading to them; by rolling away some of the smaller rocks we were able to photograph the eggs on their crude beds of small stones or on the bare rocks. There were two eggs in each nest and apparently few, if any, young had yet hatched. Most of the birds were very tame, sitting quietly on their egg while we were at work, until fully exposed to view, when they would crawl away out of sight; but sometimes they scrambled out under our feet and flew out to sea. I spent an interesting afternoon, partially hidden among the rocks, watching and photographing them. They all flew off into the water and swam away at first, but I concealed myself near one of their favorite roosting rocks, where they were accustomed to sit and sun themselves, and waited patiently for their return. There was quite a flock of them on the water just beyond the breakers, where I could plainly see them swimming about, dipping their bills into the water occasionally, diving, preening their feathers, or rising at intervals to shake the water from their wings. As their confidence returned they -worked in gradually toward the rocks, riding buoyantly over the breakers or diving through them, until one venturesome fellow flew up on to a rock only 15 feet away and stared at me. His soft, shrill whistle gave assurance to his companions that I was harmless and one by one they flew up to join him until I had four of them just where I wanted to photograph them. One or two settled down to rest in a sitting posture; others walked about in a semierect attitude, their little red legs being just long enough to keep their spiny tails clear of the rock; others were more restless, coming and going all the time, with their feet widespread in flight and held straight out behind. It was an unusually good opportunity to photograph this species and I regret exceedingly that nearly all of the plates were lost in some unaccountable way.

Although the above-described nesting sites may be considered as typical of the species or as generally preferred by it, the black guillemot often nests in entirely different situations. Audubon (1840) describes a perilous attempt of one of the sailors to secure the eggs of this bird by swinging on a long rope over the face of a rocky cliff, several hundred feet above the sea, in the Magdalen Islands, and I have seen them there myself nesting in the fissures, deep crevices, and caves of the soft red sandstone cliffs, where their nests were practically inaccessible. On the south coast of Labrador we found a few pairs breeding on Esquimo Island, where we ~aw them flying into and out of crevices in the perpendicular cliffs of limestone rock 30 or 40 feet high, as we walked along the stony beach below. Black guillemots were not common on this coast, probably on account of the scarcity of suitable nesting sites.

On the northeast coast of Labrador, in the summer of 1912, we found this species evenly distributed and one of tne commonest of the sea birds, as far north as Nain. Mandt’s guillemot is said to breed in the northern portion of the coast also, but all that we shot proved to be Cepphue gryfle. They breed mostly on the outer islands, which are bare and rocky, laying their eggs in remote cavities under the numerous piles of broken rocks or in crevices in the rocky cliffs which are often inaccessible. Their eggs are persistently collected for food all summer and it is a wonder that they are not entirely exterminated. We found plenty of eggs which were nearly fresh as late as the first week in August. We saw n~ young birds anywhere, and probably only these birds that had selected maccessible locations had succeeded in hatching any eggs.

Eggs: The black guillemot lays almost invariably two eggs, though occasionally one egg constitutes a full set; where more than two eggs are found in a nest, as some writers have reported, these are probably the product of more than one female. The eggs are handsome and boldly marked. The ground color is dull white, often with a faint bluish or greenish tinge, sometimes “cream color,” or cream buff.” Some eggs are fairly well covered with small spots, but usually the markings are grouped about the larger end, often forming a ring, in large irregular blotches of dark shades of brown, varying from “clove brown” to “sepia.” One particularly handsome egg in my series is heavily blotched wit.h “cinnamon,” overlaid with “chocolate,” on a cream-colored ground, with numerous faint spots of “lilac gray.” Most eggs are more or less spotted and some sre quite heavily blotched with “lavender” or “lilac gray” of various shades. They vary in shape from “ovate” to “elliptical ovate.” The measurements of 54 eggs, in the collection, average 59.5 by.40 millimeters; the eggs showing ~he four extremes measure 65.5 by 42, 62.5 by 43, 55 by 42, and 60.5 by 38 millimeters.

Young: Incubation lasts for about 21 days and is shared by both sexes. The young remain in the nest, or in the crevices among the rocks near it, for a long time and are fed by their parents until they are fully fledged or nearly so and ready to learn to fly. The principal food of the young seems to be rock eels, small fish, and other soft-bodied sea animals which their parents find among the seaweed and rocks at low tide or obtain by diving.

Plumages: The young when first hatched are covered with thick down which is uniform s~oty blackish above, and paler or more grayish below. They remain hidden among the rocks until the juvenal plumage is acquired in August; this is sooty black above and white below heavily mottled with dusky on the sides, less heavily on the belly and breast, and only very finely spotted on the throat and chin. The white wing patches are much concealed by the broad dusky tips of the feathers. The juvenal plumage is soon replaced by the first winter plumage, which is similar to the adult winter plumage but with less white and more dusky; there is much more dusky on the head, and the white wing patches are broken by black. tipped feathers; this plumage is worn all winter, but is molted wholly or partly into the black plumage during the first spring. I believe that young birds molt later in the spring than adults and that the molt is often less complete than in adults, producing a variety of mottled black and white plumages. The change into the adult winter begins in August but is not completed until October or later; winter adults may be distinguished from young birds by the greater proportion of white, particularly on the head, and by the pure white wing patches. The spring molt, which includes all but the wings and tail, is considerably prolonged or varies greatly in date with different individuals. Some birds acquire their full summer plumage as early as the 1st of February, but I have seen birds during the first week in May in practically full winter plumage, and have birds in my collection in various stages of molt taken as late as June 18. Food: On the coast of Maihe the black guillemot feeds largely on rock eels (Gunelius gunmelius), small fish which can be found at low tide under loose stones. It also eats small mussels and other small mollusks, which it obtains by diving and swallows whole, sea insects, marine worms, shrimp~ small crabs, and other small crustaceans, which swim on or near the surface. Small fish are frequently included in its diet. Mr. Lucien M. Turner, in his unpublished notes on the birds of Ungava, says:

The food of the birds is essentially marine, consisting of all manner of smaller crustacea. Several stomachs were opened and found to contain recently swailowed specimens of My8is mirta only; no other food being apparent. Other stomachs contained only a semiviscid fluid of reddish, amber color, such as might result from the digestion of such food as that just mentioned.

Behavior: The only note that I have heard this species utter is a faint, shrill, piping whistle which is apparently used as a call rather than an alarm note. When disturbed on its nest it emits a hissing note of protests. It is usually silent, however. Its flight is strong, swift, and direct, with rapid wing strokes, usually close to the water. In diving it flops under the surface with open wings, using them regularly in subaqueous flight. Dr. Charles W. Townsend writes to me:

The habit possessed by the black guillemot of dabbling with Its bill at the water may have arisen in attempts to obtain food or to sip the water, but it has apparently degenerated into a nervous trick devoid of useful purpose, like the tail wagging of pipits and other birds. ~~’hen disturbed by the approach of a boat, black guillemots often dnb frequently at the water as if In nervous trepidation before taking flight. In rising irom the water the feet are used as an aid, and strike back the water one after the other alternately. Black guillernots often chase one another In play or In passion, and make the water boil as they dodge in and out above and below the surface with much flapping of wings and spreading of tails as they thrust with their pointed bills.

Winter: As soon as the young are able to fly, the black guillemots desert their breeding grounds and frequent during the winter the rocky shores of the north Atlantic coasts from Greenland to Long Island, though they are rare south of Cape Cod. They are very shy at this season and are usually scattered about in small parties or pairs, playing in the surf off the rocky beaches or even well out at sea.

Breeding range: Coasts of northeastern North America and nQrthwestern Europe. From Maine (Matinicus Rock, eastward), New Brunswick (Grand Manan), and Nova Scotia (Seal Island) north to Labrador and southern Greenland (Holsteinborg, probably rarely to Disco Bay). Also from Iceland, the Faroe Islands, Orkneys, Shetlands, and some of the Hebrides, northern Scotland, Ireland, and Wales (formerly) east to Scandinavia and the White Sea. South to Denmark.

Winter range: Slightly south of its summer home. Many remain as far north as southwestern Greenland (Ivigtut) and few pass south of Massachusetts. There is one record for Connecticut, one definite and several indefinite records from Long Island, and it has been supposed to occur on the Delaware River several times, but there is apparently but one recent definite record. It is also said to have been taken in Lancaster and Perry Counties, Pennsylvania, and once on Lake Ontario, New York. A bird taken at Toronto, Ontario, may be mandti. In Europe as far north as Norway and south rarely to northern France.

Spring migration: Birds wintering on the Massachusetts coast pass northward in April (April 11 to 19); occasionally individuals linger till May.

Fall migration: Fall migrants arrive on the Massachusetts coast early in November (November 5); rarely as early as September.

Egg dates: Maine: 25 records,~ June 12 to July 16; 13 records, June 18 to 30. Bay of Fundy and Nova Scotia: 25 records, June 11 to July 6; 13 records, June 20 to 28. Gulf of St. Lawrence: 13 records, June 8 to July 15; 7 records, June 15 to 25. Great Britain: 11 records, May 23 to June 17; 6 records, June 5 to 11. Labrador, east coast: 7 records, July 1 to August 2; 4 records. July 12 to 17.


The northern “sea pigeon” is essentially a bird of the Arctic Ocean, though it also breeds in portions of Hudson Bay and the North Atlantic, where it can find practically Arctic conditions in summer. It has been seen as far north as 840 in summer, and apparently pushes northwards in the spring as fast and as far as the leads open in the ice.

Mr. W. Elmer Ekblaw writes to me as follows:

If any water bird in the Smith Sound region merits the adjective ubiquitous. the guillemot certainly does. Throughout the entire extent of the northwest Greenland coast and along the shores of Ellesmereland this active, pigeon-like bird is found throughout the open season; in the open water of the sound it finds sustenance even in the dark of winter. There is no fjord so deep that the guillemot does not enter into its head; there is no promontory so stormy or so steep that the guillemot does not frequent it. As there is hardly a rock ledge on land that does not form the home or hunting ground of the snow bunting so along the coast there is no ledge or cliff that does not afford a home and nesting site to one or many guillemots.

This species has been said to breed in northern Labrador, and perhaps it may do so in the vicinity of Cape Chidley, but all the birds that we collected as far north as Nain proved to be Cepphus grylle. Mr. Lucien M. Turner did not find it breeding in Hudson Strait and saw only occasional pairs or solitary individuals. According to Rev. C. W. G. Eifrig (1905), the Canadian Neptune Expedition found this species “at Cape Fullerton, where they are common summer and winter, as also throughout Hudson Bay and northward; some were seen at North Devon.”

Nesting: Mr. Ekblaw describes the nesting habits of Mandt’s guillemot quite fully, as follows:

The birds begin mating about the 1st of June; the first eggs are laid about the 10th or 15th of June. though some pairs begin more than a month later. The mating act takes place on the edge of the ice along the leads of the open water, or on the small pans of ice floating about. The mating antics suggest those of domestic ducks. It is not so gregarious in nesting time as are the kittiwakes, the murres, or the fulmars; single pairs not infrequently are the sole occupants of a ledge or cliff. but generally they have considerable company of their own species. It does not avoid the proximity of other birds, nor does it seek their company. It nests In crevices and joint fissures in the rocks rather than on ledges, and this choice of nesting place determines the assemblage of its own kind and other species with which it may be found. If the crevices be numerous, and near good feeding grounds, many guillemots may be associated; if ledges suitable to the nesting of other species are found about the crevices, then usually the company is mixed; or if the right kind of talus slope be near, the dovekie may nest beside or above it. Because it thus frequents the crevices and deep niches In the rocks rather than the ledges, it is not so readily detected at home, and one comparing the relative numbers of the birds of various species frequenting a nesting place would be sure to consider the guillemots much fewer in number than they really are; though on the edge of the ice, in the leads, or on the open sea, he would realize his error.

In a few localities, such as the southeast corner of Saunders Island, the bird colony is composed almost wholly of the guillemot, and may be very large. At this place, in a sharp reentrant in the cliff face, the rocks are evidently much transected by numerous crevices which furnish good nesting places near good feeding grounds. Here whole bevies of guillemots fly in and out, and about, in the nesting season, like bees hived in trees; but instead of a steady hum, there comes from the place the intermittent nervous, shrill, whistle much Uke a squeal, that one learns to know so well along the Northland coasts. Similar, almost pure colonies, of guillemots are found at Crystal Palace Cliffs, at Cape Parry, at Cape Atholl, and other places. Usually the guillemot nests lower on the cliffs than do the other birds with which it is sometimes found, but in these pure colonies it may nest far up, even to the tops of the highest cliffs.

The nest is usually placed on a pile of broken debris well back in the crevices, or on a shelf that seems safe. Rarely are the eggs so near the opening that one can reach them without a “spoon’s mounted on a rather long handle. The eggs are generally t~vo in number, but occasionally the Eskimo find three in a clutch. The eggs do not exhibit such variations as do the eggs of Uria lom’,Aa Zomina, different clutches being uniformly similar, though on some the blotching is denser or more confluent, than on others.

Eggs: Mandt’s guillemot lays ordinarily two eggs, occasionally only one and, according to some writers, rarely three; probably sets of three are accidental and the result of more than one bird’s laying. The nesting habits and the eggs do not differ essentially from those of the black guillemot. I have never been able to detect any distinguishing characters in such eggs as I have examined, except that the ground color is usually more greenish or bluish white; so rather than attempt to describe them, I will refer the reader to my description of the eggs of the foregoing species. The measurements of 53 eggs in various collections, average 59.6 by 39.5; the eggs showing the four extremes measure 64.3 by 40.8, 62 by 42, 53.5 by 38.5, and 55.6 by 37.6 millimeters.

Young: Regarding the young, Mr. Ekblaw writes:

The young of this species develop rather slowly even for an altricial bird in this latitude, more slowly than do those of the other northern species. Since the birds apparently do not need to migrate south hut require only open water for their winter home, this slowness of development probably does not endanger the birds. The young are fed constantly, both old birds having a part in the feeding. Sea food is all the young get; almost exclusively their diet is made up of shrimps, with which the water teems, though I have also found in their crops the gastropod, that looks so much like the ordinary land snail, and of which the eider is so fond. The young call insistently for food from their emergence from the shell in their dark, dusky-brown down to their first dip into the sea in their nice light suits of feathers to begin to learn to find for themselves. They get into the water immediately from the nest and do not return. They are attended by the parent bird for some time after. They do not frequent the shore closely but stay fairly well out at sea, usually near to some iceberg or ice pan, where the food is apparently more abundant, or where perhaps the water Is quieter, at least on the lee side, or perhaps both. The young birds can not, or at least do not, remain submerged so long when diving at alarm.

Plumages: Ridgway’s Manual (1887) gives the description of the downy young as “uniform sooty blackish, paler and more grayish below.” On account of the late dates at which the young are hatched, they are often not fully fledged and ready to leave the nests until September 1 or later. According to Messrs. Thayer and Bangs (1914), Mr. John Koren visited a breeding place of this species at Cape Kibera Island, east Siberia, August 30: 31, 1912, “at which time all of the young birds were still in the nests. On September 10 of the previous year, however, there were no guillemots to be seen at this same place, both young and adults evidently having left by that date. At Cape Irkaipig, September 6, 1911, a few birds were observed still feeding their young on the bluffs.”

The juvenal and first winter plumages are apparently the same as in Cepphu8 grylle. Dr. Wit.mer Stone (1900) publishes the fob lowing note on a series of birds from Point Barrow:

Eight young (birds of the year), September 23, January 11 (2), February 6, March 10, March 24. March 28, March 30, exhibit much variation in the amount of black on the head and black spots on wing coverts. All have narrow black tips to white feathers of the abdomen. None of these birds show any trace of the spring molt, which was well under way in the adults at the time that most of these were taken.

Probably young birds do not acquire the full black nuptial plumage until the second spring, but at the first postnuptial moult they assume the adult winter plumage. Young birds are always darker or show more black mottling during the fall and winter than adults. They also have the mottled speculum.

Adults have a prenuptial molt which is nearly complete, involving everything but the wings, which begins in March. They have a complete postnuptial molt, beginning about the middle of August and lasting a month or more; during this molt the wing feathers are shed almost simultaneously, rendering the bird flightless. The adult winter plumage is similar to that of Cepphu8 grylle, but it is much whiter. Adult Mandt’s guillemots can always be distinguished from black guillemots by the white bases of the greater wing coverts and by the slenderer bills; in young birds this distinction is not so well marked, but young Mandt’s guillemots have much less dusky at the bases of these feathers than young black guillemots, where it occupies not only the basal half of each feather but the whole of the inner web nearly or quite to the tip.

Food: The food of Mandt’s guillernot seems to consist mainly of small fishes, crustaceans, and other soft-bodied sea animals.

Behavior: Mr. Ekb]aw contributes the following notes on the habits of this species:

When resting idle and unalarmed on the water, it floats high so that much white of its under parts shows, but when alarmed or ready for a dire it sinks itself and rides low, only its black head and back showing. From this low position it dives most easily, like a flash, and with bat very little commotion. It dives readily and fast, using its wings to help its feet in propelling itself; it dives so quickly at gunfire that it seems often to evade the shot fired at it from a distance, in this respect resembling the murre, which seems even quicker, however. While swimming about it has the peculiar habit of nervously moving its head backward and forward. It is less shy than most other sea birds, both on the cliffs and in the leads or pools, or on the open sea, apparently trusting and unafraid, undisturbed by the proximity of man. This apparent confidence is quite different from the shyness of the guillemot farther south in Danish Greenland where it is practicaly unapproachable.

A flock of guillemots contentedly feeding in a pooi or lead is a pleasant sight; sometimes they dive as individuals, sometimes as a flock. When satisfied with food, or when tired of the ivater, they crawl out on the edge of the ice to bask or sleep, often in dense flocks. Once when in need of dinner, I shot 11 birds from one such flock, with a 12-gauge shotgun, No. 6 shot.

When resting on the ice, the gulilemot is likely to take flight if suddenly startled, but if more gradually alarmed, it prefers to take to the water to dive. Either from the edge of the ice or in the water, one bird more shy takes the lead in diving, then a few follow, and in a moment the whole flock, leaving trails of bubbles behind. They soon come to the surface, but if the source of their alarm has come nearer them, they dive again at once, remaining submerged for a longer time. It can stay under the water for some little time, either when frightened or feeding: up to a minute and a quarter. Even when injured it dives deep and fast. I once wounded two by shot, that almost escaped, with one wing on either broken, by diving beneath a heavy, deep iceberg or floe and coming up on the side away from me. When repeatedly frightened it can not continue submerging itself and finally takes flight.

Rising against the wind, the guillemot takes to its wings rather quickly and easily; but with the wind, or when there is no ~vind at all, it has considerable difficulty. Under either of these conditions the bird must make a determined effort; it flutters along the surface partly flying, partly paddling with its little red feet, to develop enough initial velocity to raise it, often for long distances before it trusts to its wings alone. Once in the air, it sways from side to side as it rises, resembling a quail or partridge. Its flight is exceedingly rapid, yet it can turn most abruptly in flight, and likewise most abruptly check its flight: apparently by assuming a sudden vertical position of the body: to drop hoveringly into the water, in a manner Quite different from its usual “shoot-thechute” slide into a pool, like a ship slipping uncontrolled into the sea from her ways. Often the bird stoops so sharply from considerable heights that it drops like a meteor; the noise a flock of such dropping birds makes is like that of a little hurricane.

Winter: The Eskimo told me that about the Cary Islands, where the water is usually open nil the year round, large numbers of the guillemot spend the winter; and when the sea is open throughout the winter even farther north in Smith Sound proper, between Cape Sabine and Lyttleton Island, the gulilemot frequents it and thrives. On January 25, 1914, one of our Eskimo saw two Mandt’s guillemots in open water along the edge of the ice north of Sunrise Point, and south of Cape Olsen; the same day, another of our Eskimo saw a flock in a small tidal pool beside a grounded iceberg between Lyttieton Island and Cape Hatherton, and Mr. MacMillan heard them whistling off Sunrise Point. Returning from Cape Sabine to Cairn Point in mid-February, 1914, 1 saw many guiliemots in the open water along the edge of the young ice. On March 1, 1914, Doctor Hunt, the surgeon of our party, shot 19, all in winter plumage, in open leads off the mouth of Foulke Fjord, where many flocks of them were feeding.

The fall migration of this species is not very extensive, so far as it is known, for it can be driven from its summer home only when the ocean is solidly frozen. Probably most of the Greenland birds are forced out to winter on the open ocean or around the edges of the ice packs. The birds which breed north of Hudson Bay probably do not migrate through Hudson Strait, but winter in the southern part of Hudson Bay or in James Bay, which is almost always more or less open; the occasional freezing of this bay may account for the accidental occurrence of this species in Ontario. Mandt’s guillemot winters in Bering Strait, but does not seem to wander south of Norton Sound, Alaska.

Cepphus mandti will probably prove to be a subspecies of grylle. Numerous specimens of intermediate birds are to be found in collections, which are either intergrades or hybrids. Two summer birds from the Gulf of St. Lawrence, which I have seen, show the intermediate characters.

Breeding range: Coasts and islands of the Arctic Ocean. From northern Greenland (Cape Union, Thank God Harbor, Bessells Bay, and Cape Lieber south to about Disco Bay), Spitzbergen, Franz Josef Land, Nova Zembla, the northern Siberian coast to Herald and Wrangel Islands, the vicinity of Point Barrow, Alaska, and islands north of Hudson Bay. South along the west coast of Ungava into James Bay. Birds have been recorded as far north as latitude 840 Nonbreeding birds may occasionally be found in Bering Sea and on the coast of Labrador (Cape Whittle, June 24), but breeding records from these localities need confirmation. Has been taken at Gaspe, Quebec, June 10.

Winter range: As far north as open water can be found, south to Bering Strait (rarely Norton Sound) and Hudson Strait. Many doubtless winter in Hudson Bay and James Bay, occasionally reaching Lake Ontario, and some probably occur on the Labrador coast at this season.

Spring migration: Arrive in northern Greenland; Bowdoin Bay, May 8 (not common until late June); Thank God Harbor, February 28 and during March; Cape Sabine, first seen March 15; northeastern Greenland, latitude 800 10′, June 10.

Fall migration: In northern Greenland last seen at Floeberg Beach, latitude 820 27′, August 29; at Port Foulke, September 1; Bowdoin Bay, September 6; and eastern Greenland, latitude 7~O 20′, September 3.

Egg dates: Hudson Bay: 6 records, June 10 and 21, July 6, 7, 10, and 24. Oumberland Gulf: 2 records, June 28 and July 2. Greenland: 1 record, July 4.

About the Author

Sam Crowe

Sam is the founder of He has been birding for over 30 years and has a world list of over 2000 species. He has served as treasurer of the Texas Ornithological Society, Sanctuary Chair of Dallas Audubon, Editor of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's "All About Birds" web site and as a contributing editor for Birding Business magazine. Many of his photographs and videos can be found on the site.

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Kamrul Khan

Tuesday 7th of May 2024

I am currently in the process of creating a coloring book centered around seabirds, featuring 40 species. Each caption will contain approximately 200 words for each seabird,

Could you please allow me to use your text and articles on some seabirds species? It would greatly enhance the educational value of the book, benefiting the readers.

Proper attribution will be provided in the bibliography.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Sam Crowe

Wednesday 8th of May 2024

Hi Kamrul,

Please e-mail us at its(at) birdzilla dot com

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