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New England Seabirds

 Wilson's Storm-petrels  David Jones

Alcids Index


Atlantic Puffin



Black Guillemot


Seabirds - Alcids

Black Guillemot

Cepphus grylle


Comments to Webmaster

Black Guillemot with fish J. Beseda


Really nice photo by Jim Besada of Black Guillemot with small fish called a Rock gunnel. Notice the red feet.

Photo taken on the NH Audubon pelagic out of Rye, the Isle of Shoals.

Genus Cepphus - Three Species
Of the three species that make up this genus, one is very easily seen in our area i.e the Black Guillemot. Any birder who travels to the northern California coast will surely become acquainted with the very similar Pigeon Guillemot. The third the Spectacled Guillemot is found only near the Japanese coast and not a likely candidate to appear in North America because the Guillemots in general stick close to shore.

The Black Guillemot can easily be seen in Maine, the coast of New Hampshire, and Massachusetts. Its range is circumpolar and it is known to fish in gaps in the pack ice. It is a hardy bird.

Black Guillemot Leonard Medlock

Identification- Breeding

The breeding Black Guillemot is black bird with a thin bill, red legs, and large white oval patches on the upper surface of the wing. Under wing is mostly white with a thick dark trailing edge. This can be seen in the winter plumage bird with wings raised below. The lining of the mouth is bright red.

This is indeed a handsome bird. Photo by Leonard Medlock

The Pigeon Guillemot of California is very similar except that it has a dark “V” shaped patch in the white wing patch.

Both Black Guillemot and Pigeon Guillemot has been turning up on the opposite sides of North America.  Probably due to the opening of the North West Passage.

Winter Plumage
Black Guillemots can be seen in winter from shore especially Cape Ann, Cape Cod in Massachusetts. However the bird will look somewhat different as you can see in the following pictures by Leonard Medlock.  Look for a very gray bird sitting on the water.  Prefers rocky coasts.

Winter plumage Black Guillemotr by Leonard Medlock

When watching from shore in the winter it is easy to overlook this gray bird making extended dives in  search of food. The white wing patch is a dead giveaway on the bird on the right taking off from the water.. Notice the black upper wing and the extensive white on the underwing with dark trailing edge.

Winter plumage Black Guillemot Leonard Medlock
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Freethy, Ron (1987 Auks An Ornithologist’s Guide Facts On File Publications New York

Harrison, Peter (1983) Seabirds an identification guide Houghton Mifflin Company; Boston

Sibley, David (2000) The Sibley Guide to Birds Alfred A. Knopf, New York.