Saturday, 2 February 2013

Comon Guillemot

order : Charadriiformes      Genus & Species : Alcidae     Family : Uria aalge

The guillemot is an accomplished swimmer and diver; it ventures onto dry land only to nest in colonies that dot the sea cliffs, where the bird lays a single egg on bare rock. Though awkward on land, the guillemot, with its streamlined head and slender neck, is a graceful swimmer and diver when it hunts for food. They found on the northern coasts of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans in North America, Europe, Asia, Africa, Greenland and Iceland; also in the U.S. in Maine and southern California. 

Habitat : The common guillemot prefers ice-free waters where it can dive and hunt without obstacles.This seabird remains on the high seas until the breeding season, when it moves to steep sea cliffs and low, flat islands. It occurs along seacoasts, rocky cliffs and offshore islands during winter, as well as along the edge of the continental shelf and shallow banks, marine coasts and bays. The guillemot can generally be found in boreal (northern) waters with some birds in the cool, subtropical zone. Depending on the direction of fish schools, the guillemot winters offshore at sea within the breeding range. In Newfoundland and Norway, the bird is relatively sedentary; in Great Britain and Iceland, birds move toward the North Sea. 
Food & Feeding : The guillemot searches for its fish prey by dipping its head just below the sea’s surface. After spotting prey, the bird then dives and propels its body underwater with its wings, in hot pursuit of a meal. This acrobatic chase usually results in several catches during the day, with the bird diving from 30–230'.The guillemot prefers fish that are high in fat, such as herring, capelin, sprat and sand eels, carrying each one head first in its bill before swallowing it. It will also eat crustaceans, fish eggs, mollusks and worms.The guillemot swims up to 13 miles in search of large schools of fish. 
Behavior : The social guillemot nests in large colonies on cliffs, presenting a spectacular splash of black and white during the nesting season. These remote sites are mostly predator-free except for gulls that fly in and grab the eggs or very young birds. This cousin of the penguin, better suited for swimming, waddles on land only during the nesting season and rests sitting upright. Common guillemots use a variety of signals and displays to protect territories.They chatter continuously, with a combination of grunts, cries and whistles that they emit on land and also as they swim. 
Breeding : Courting for the guillemot consists of a series of calls and complicated water ballets. Once formed, pairs are monogamous and both male and female defend the breeding site, flicking their heads and lunging at intruders in threat displays. In April, the female lays a single pear-shaped, blue-green, speckled egg on bare rock on a cliff ledge (the egg’s pear shape helps keep it from rolling off the cliff ’s edge). Both parents take turns incubating the egg for about 33 days by holding it between their feet; they turn to face the cliff side for added protection from the wind.The hatchling resembles a gray ball of wool; the feathers become waterproof within about three weeks, about the time that the chick is ready to make its first attempt to dive into the sea below, where its parents are waiting. This “parachute” leap can be from heights up to almost 1,000'. The juvenile will become an expert swimmer before it learns to fly; once it is able to fly well, it will leave with the male. The female, possibly to break the bond with its chick, will often remain at the breeding site for two weeks after the chick leaves. 


Bill : The long, slender bill is designed to catch fish underwater.The guillemot also uses its bill to smear oil over its feathers for insulation.The yellow lining contrasts with the black bill. 
Plumage : When viewed from above, the floating guillemot blends in with the dark ocean waters. From below, the white underbelly blends in with the light from the sky. Both sexes have similar plumage. In winter, the cheeks and underside of the head and foreneck are white, in the summer, black. 
Feet : The black webbed feet are better suited for swimming than walking. On land, the bird moves clumsily in an upright position. Claws grasp rough, surfaces. Underwater, the guillemot uses its feet as a rudder. 


Weight : About 2 lbs.
Length : 14-16"
Wingspan : 25-28"
Sexual Maturity : 4-5 years
Breeding Season : Spring and early summer


The common guillemot and other relatives in the auk family are related to penguins, but these birds have retained the ability to fly — due mainly to their larger wing size.