Cepphus columba

DescriptionPigeon Guillemots are seen on a whale watching boat tour with Eagle Wing Tours in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada on Vancouver Island.

Pigeon sized, they measure 12–14 inches (30–36 cm). In breeding plumage, black with large white wing patch interrupted by two black stripes. In winter, head and upper parts lighten slightly, giving dusky mottled effect; underparts are white with buff-coloured barring on flanks and dusky wing linings. In all seasons, feet and bill lining brilliant red.

Habitat

Rocky coasts.

Nesting

One or two whitish or greenish, dark-spotted eggs in a crevice or burrow.

Range

Breeds on coasts and islands from southern Alaska south to southern California. Winters far offshore.

Voice

High thin whistles and squeaks.

Discussion

Pigeon guillemots appear to be the least social of all the alcids. Where coastal cliffs allow only one nesting cavity, only one pair will occupy it. Elsewhere, territories are laid out like beads on a string. These birds feed by diving, taking mostly small fish. This is a rather comical bird. Having extremely large bright red feet, it often has a very difficult time acquiring flight… running along the surface of the water before achieving ‘airborne’ status.