Bird Sightings : Hebrides : Guillemot
Photograph © Debbie Bozkurt
Rocket range - South Uist - Outer Hebrides (Western Isles)
17th February, 2007
Our guillemot photographs :
Guillemots can live for up to 22 years.
A guillemot is 38cm to 46cm length, with black on the top of the head, wings and back, and white underparts.
In summer the black of the head extends down to the neck of an adult guillemot, and in winter it's chin and cheeks are white.
If you look down from a cliff above one of our sandy beaches you may be able to watch a guillemot swimming underwater searching for fish, they move so fast they seem to fly underwater! (A good place to watch this is looking down at the sea from the low cliff on the left of Reef beach if you are in that area). Guillemot can dive down to 50 metres.
Guillemots eat mostly schooling fish, hence their ability as agile swimmers, they also eat marine worms, squid and some crustaceans.
We have guillemots present all year here in the Western Isles.
On the 12th October 2006 at least 3 guillemots were present in Stornoway bay near the shore, they appear to have short necks and their beaks tilt upward when they are on the water.
Guillemots are similar to razorbills.
A Guillemots has a long pointed bill, the beak of a razorbill is short and blunt. If you are not close enough to see the bill for comparison, consider that razorbills spend most of their time at sea or on rocky cliffs, they prefer the more remote places. (Sometimes you can see them near the shore in the Taransay Sound off Luskentyre in Harris)
In the Western Isles guillemots nest in closely packed colonies that can be several thousand strong, on cliffs, sea stacks, mostly on the outlying islands. They lay pointed eggs that roll in a circle if disturbed (less likely to fall off a cliff). A few thousand nest along the cliffs of the Tolsta - Port-of Ness sea-cliffs.
As well as the common form of guillemot we get a form known as "bridled" where the eye is bordered by white, and a line extends from the eye back to the neck.
We also get black guillemots in the Western Isles.
A few years back I spent a lot of time with friends in Norfolk who ran a wildlife rescue centre. We spent a lot of time dealing with very badly oiled seabirds, and there was a recovering Guillemot who had the "run" of the house. Guillemots deal with staircases in much the same way as they do climbing rocky ledges, (feet together jumps) they make rather fishy company however. The guillemot fully recovered and was returned to the sea.
The collective name for auks is a raft, colony, flock of auks.
Debbie's online photo album
Other local bird photographs
Sources of information for the bird sightings section