Pigeon Guillemot    Cepphus columba



This pigeon-sized seabird (13.5 inches long) stands at the entrance to it's breeding nest dug in the side of a cliff near Boston Harbor.  They breed in small groups in caves or burrows in cliffs or in enclosed areas under large docks.  One to two eggs are laid which are then incubated by both parents and hatch in a month.  The young are fed small fish by both parents for another month before fledging.  The young fledge at night and can swim and dive immediately, but need another several weeks to become strong flyers.


The pigeon guillemot is a member of the Auk family of seabirds who are characterized by dark plumage, compact bodies with short wings, and legs placed well back on the body.  Pigeon guillemots differ from other auks in having a long thin bill, white wing bar (broken with a black wedge) and gaudy red feet.  They range from Alaska to southern California feeding and resting on the water close to shore.  


The pigeon guillemot is a common member of the south Puget Sound water bird community and often seen nearshore during the spring and summer months diving for their food.  They use partially folded wings to "fly" underwater chasing prey such as fish, crabs and shrimp.  They run across the water to gain speed for takeoff, then continue to fly fast close to the water surface.  Pigeon guillemots are preyed upon by hawks, bald eagles, killer whales, octopuses and possibly large fish.  Because of their use of the nearshore area they are also vulnerable to oil spills.