Black Guillemot: 21 Facts You Won't Believe!

Black guillemot facts are amazing.

The black guillemot (Cepphus grylle) is a species of bird which is medium in size. It belongs to the family of Alcidae. This bird has a long slender bill and changes the color of its plumage, based on the season. During the winter, it has a pale gray or white plumage. During the summer, it sheds its winter plumage and instead develops pitch black colored feathers. This species of bird inhabits a wide range of habitat regions such as rocky coasts along the Gulf of Maine, the North Atlantic coasts, and Alaska.  These birds make use of their bill to feed on a large group of animals, with fish being their primary source of food. They forage near rocky shores. February and May are considered to be the breeding time of this bird when they can be found in pairs. Females lay up to two eggs at a time. After the hatching of the eggs occurs, the chicks are taken good care of by their parents. The younger ones are fed up to 20 fish a day until they fledge. Once the chicks develop their wing feathers, they become independent and no longer require the guidance of their parents.

Keep on reading to know more about black guillemots. Check out our articles on the pelican and palm warbler to learn more about other animals.

Black Guillemot

Fact File

What do they prey on?

Small invertebrates and fish

What do they eat?


Average litter size?


How much do they weigh?

10.5-16 oz (297.6-453.5 g)

How long are they?

12-12.5 in (30.4- 31.7 cm)

How tall are they?


What do they look like?

Black and white

Skin Type


What are their main threats?


What is their conservation status?

Least Concern

Where you'll find them

Ocean coasts and boreal region


Alaska, North America, and the British Isles





Scientific Name

Cepphus grylle





Black Guillemot Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a black guillemot?

The black guillemot (Cepphus grylle) is a species of seabird that is native to the coasts of the North Atlantic.

What class of animal does a black guillemot belong to?

Black guillemot birds belong to the Aves class of animals and the family of Alcidae.

How many black guillemots are there in the world?

The estimated population of these North American birds, as of now, stands at a range of 400,000-700,000. Although there has been a reduction in their population range in the past, there is no imminent threat at this moment. Currently, they are enjoying the conservation status of Least Concern under the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Where does a black guillemot live?

Black guillemots occupy a vast array of regions worldwide. Some of the places where these seabirds can be found are along the rocky coasts of the Gulf of Maine, New England, regions surrounding the northern coasts of North America, as well as Alaska, the British Isles, northward, western and northern regions of Scotland, and Ireland. They also have different breeding grounds, like the islands of Surtsey and Iceland.

What is a black guillemot's habitat?

Since this is a species of seabirds, they can mostly be found near ocean coasts and boreal regions. They are also known to inhabit low Arctic and high Arctic regions of the North Atlantic and the Arctic Ocean. They are mostly known to forage near rocky shores.

Who do black guillemots live with?

Found in the North Atlantic regions, black guillemots can usually be found in groups or in pairs near the rocky shore. During migration, they form large colonies and move towards the south and in the mating season, they can be found in pairs or even small groups. They are also known to forage in groups or colonies.

How long does a black guillemot live?

The lifespan of this bird in the wild is 30 years.

How do they reproduce?

Between February and May is considered to be the breeding season for this species of bird when they can be found in small groups or pairs. Surtsey is one of the few islands where they can be seen during this time. The incubation period for females is 28-32 days, and females lay up to two eggs at a time. The young birds are taken care of until they develop wing feathers which generally takes 30-40 days.

What is their conservation status?

These North American birds currently enjoy the conservation category of Least Concern species under the International Union for Conservation of Nature. They were hunted in large numbers by humans for their meat in the past. However, their population is quite stable currently and can be found in large numbers, especially in the high Arctic regions.

Black Guillemot Fun Facts

What do black guillemots look like?

Black guillemots are birds of medium size, covered with pitch-black feathers as their name suggests.  This bird has a long slender black bill and its feet are bright red in color. One of its distinguishing features is the white-colored patch of feathers that is present on its wings. They can shed their plumage depending upon the season. During the summer, they have pitch-black plumage with a white patch of color on their wings. In the winter, most of the black plumage is lost and they start to develop winter plumage which is whiter or pale gray in color. The color of their feet and legs remains red throughout all the seasons.

The black guillemot bird is a carnivore.

How cute are they?

Just like razorbills, these birds are extremely beautiful. The unique change in coloration of black and white plumage in its body during summer and winter, and its long slender bill enhance its beauty.

How do they communicate?

Found near the rocky shore of the Gulf of Maine, these birds communicate with each other through various sounds and body postures. Males are known to emit high pitch sounds, especially during the breeding time to entice the females. Male birds also perform a variety of movements, like moving around the females or pointing their bills downwards. The females respond in a similar manner. This unique way of courtship during breeding time is called a greeting ceremony. After breeding, females can lay up to two eggs at a time.

How big is a black guillemot?

This bird medium in size. Adults can reach up to a length of 12-12.5 in (30.4- 31.7 cm) with a wingspan of 20.5-23 in  (52-58.4 cm). They are almost the same size as an Atlantic puffin.

How fast can a black guillemot fly?

The wingspan of black guillemots range from 20.5-23 in  (52-58 cm) and they are known to cover a distance of 12.43 mph (20 kph).

How much does a black guillemot weigh?

There is not much difference in size between the males and females of this bird species. The weight of an adult black guillemot range from 10.5-16 oz (297.6-453.5 g).

What are the male and female names of the species?

Adult males are referred to as male black guillemots and adult females are referred to as female black guillemots.

What would you call a baby black guillemot?

A young black guillemot is called a chick.

What do they eat?

Found near rocky shores and islands, this bird of black and white plumage makes use of its long slender bill to catch its prey by diving into the water of the sea. It is known to feed on fish which is its primary food source, along with insects, crustaceans, and other small sized invertebrates available in the sea. The process of feeding on its prey differs on land and underwater. If the prey is small in size or has a small body, these birds generally feed on them under the water of the sea. However, if the prey is larger in size and has a large body, they generally bring it to the surface to soften the meat with their bills and then engulf it whole. They are known to forage close to the shore in colonies.

Are they poisonous?

No, black guillemot maine water birds are not poisonous nor are they dangerous to human beings. The chance of being attacked by these birds is extremely rare and unlikely to occur.

Would they make a good pet?

Just like the superb lyrebird bird, black guillemot maine birds should not be kept as a pet. This bird is not harmful or dangerous to human beings, but they are better off in their natural habitat.

Did you know...

The word 'guillemot' is derived from the French name 'Guilluame', meaning 'William'.

These North American birds, which belong to the family of Alcidae, display quite a unique behavior when they are feeding on their prey. After diving into the water of the sea, when they catch their prey which mainly consists of fish, they are known to catch hold of them within their bills for a long period of time, even hours, before finally feeding.

How did the black guillemot get their name?

The scientific name of black guillemots is Cepphus grylle and it belongs to the family of Alcidae. Black guillemots have this name because of the pitch-black plumage they possess during the season of summer, after shedding their winter plumage. This bird sheds its plumage depending upon the season, whether it is summer or winter. In the season of winter, it has a white wing and its body is covered with pale gray plumage. The young birds or juveniles have more of a pale white or brown colored plumage. However, they too possess the white patch of feathers on the upper side of their wings, like the adults.

How to tell the difference between a black guillemot and a pigeon guillemot?

Both these species of birds differ from each other on the basis of their physical characteristics. A black guillemot, closely related to the pigeon guillemot, is much smaller in size than the latter. Furthermore, the pigeon guillemot is known to have a dark-colored wing wedge which is not present in the black guillemots.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! For more relatable content, check out these eastern towhee facts and rose-breasted grosbeak facts for kids.

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable bird coloring pages.



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