Black GuillemotCepphus grylle (Linnaeus)
Status Common resident. Breeds. In summer it is common only around its widely distributed nesting colonies on the coast; elsewhere it is rare. In late fall and winter it is fairly common along inshore coastal waters, perhaps being seen most frequently along the Eastern and Southwestern shores. In spring it begins to arrive in breeding plumage at its nesting grounds about mid-April.
Description Length: 30-36 cm. Adults in summer: Coal-black with large white wing patches and red feet. Adults in winter: Underparts white; upperparts black, feathers broadly tipped with white; wings have the same white mark as in summer.
Breeding Nest: None worthy of the name. Eggs: Usually 2; dull white, heavily marked with spots and blotches of dark brown; laid under cover, on bare gravel or earth, often under large boulders or driftwood on the beach about 1 m above high water and sometimes at the end of a burrow in peaty soil at the top of a steep embankment on islands. Laying begins early in June. Fresh eggs were examined on 19 June 1922 in nest sites under boulders at Seal Island, Yarmouth County. Three nests in burrows about 3.5 m above the rocky beach were discovered on Little Half Bald Island (locally called "Inner Bald"), off Wedgeport, Yarmouth County, on 19 July 1956 by Marie Henry. One of these nests contained the usual two eggs and the others each held well-developed young. The burrows were excavated to a depth of about 35 cm; one was found to have two entrances. Nesting colonies ranging in size from 10 to 40 pairs were visited: at Cape Split, Kings County, in 1933; on Bird (Ciboux and Hertford) Islands, Victoria County, in 1940; on Bird (Halibut) Islands off Harrigan Cove, Halifax County, in 1941; and on Seal Island in 1922 and 1938.
Range In eastern North America, breeds along rocky coasts from the Arctic south to Maine. Winters as far north as open water permits and southward to New York State. Also breeds all around the Polar Basin, and in Europe as far south as Ireland and the Baltic Sea.
Remarks Most people living along the shore know this bird as the "sea pigeon." Its colour pattern in summer somewhat resembles that of the drake White-winged Scoter, but this bird is much smaller than the Scoter. Generally seen on inshore waters, it feeds on small fishes, seeming to show a strong preference for Rock Eels (Pholis gunnellus), which it procures by diving.
It is classified as a migratory non-game bird and as such is completely protected throughout the year, both in Canada (including Newfoundland) and the United States, by international treaty.
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