Black Guillemot (Cepphus grylle) Facts: Profile, Description


What are some of the interesting facts about the black guillemot or tystie bird? The black guillemot, with its distinct appearance, intriguing nesting choices, and remarkable hunting techniques, emerges as a marvel in the avian realm. Its presence along the coastal regions adds a touch of mystique to the vast expanses of the northern Atlantic and North American shores, making it a subject of admiration for both casual observers and avid ornithologists alike. This article will discuss interesting facts about the black guillemot or tystie bird, including profile, history, lifespan, habitat, breeding, plumage, range, diet, mating, wings, eggs, migration, adaptation, fledgling, call, and more. Keep reading.

Habitat and Distribution

The black guillemot, scientifically known as Cepphus grylle, stands as a testament to avian elegance in the expansive family of alcids, Alcidae. This medium-sized seabird, adorned with a distinctive black plumage, finds its home along the northern Atlantic coasts and the shores of North America. Although a significant number of these birds are year-round residents within their expansive range, the allure of the high Arctic prompts substantial populations to embark on migratory journeys southward during the winter months.

Physical Characteristics

The Black Guillemot, scientifically known as Cepphus grylle, presents itself as an avian marvel with its compact size measuring between 30 to 32 centimeters. This enigmatic bird boasts a wingspan extending to a graceful 55 centimeters, showcasing a remarkable balance in its proportions. A dainty yet formidable creature, the Black Guillemot maintains a weight of approximately 420 grams, adding to its allure in the avian realm. The intricate details of its physical dimensions offer a captivating introduction to a species teeming with nuances.

Vital Statistics

In the intricate tapestry of ornithological information, the Black Guillemot weaves an intriguing narrative through its vital statistics. Beyond its mere dimensions, this avian entity possesses a common lifespan that unfurls over 11 years. This temporal framework underscores the resilience and adaptability of the species in navigating the dynamic landscapes of its habitat. An avian odyssey unfolds as one delves into the temporal intricacies of the Black Guillemot’s existence, transcending mere numerical values to embody the essence of its journey.

Aerial Prowess

Beyond the terrestrial confines, the Black Guillemot takes flight, revealing a mesmerizing aspect of its existence. With a wingspan extending to a majestic 55 centimeters, this avian virtuoso navigates the atmospheric realms with grace and precision. Its wings, meticulously designed by nature, become a testament to the avian mastery embodied by the Black Guillemot. This aerial prowess not only defines its survival strategies but also adds a poetic dimension to its existence, making it a dynamic and captivating subject of ornithological study.

The Weighted Significance

In the delicate balance of nature, weight becomes a crucial factor in determining the adaptability and survival mechanisms of a species. The Black Guillemot, with its modest weight of 420 grams, unveils a finely tuned equilibrium that allows it to thrive in diverse ecological niches. This seemingly unassuming numeric value encapsulates the essence of the avian species, portraying a harmonious interplay between mass and movement. The weighted significance of its 420-gram stature emerges as a silent testament to the intricacies of its evolutionary journey.

Dietary Preferences and Hunting Techniques

Delving into their dietary habits, the black guillemot showcases a gastronomic inclination towards fish and crustaceans. Its prowess as a hunter is displayed with finesse as it takes to the water, diving gracefully from the water’s surface to depths below in pursuit of its prey. This marine acrobat navigates the underwater realm, employing a dexterity that mirrors its avian elegance.

Remarkable Foraging Skills

Upon a successful hunt, the black guillemot emerges with its prize firmly clasped in its bill. How the fish is positioned becomes a fascinating telltale sign of the bird’s lateral preference. An observer keen on the nuances of nature might discern whether the avian hunter is left- or right-handed, a distinctive trait that adds a layer of complexity to the already captivating world of this seabird.

Black Guillemots in the UK: A Prolific Presence

Nestled along the coastal expanses of the United Kingdom, a multitude of thousands of black guillemots create a mesmerizing spectacle during their breeding season. These avian creatures, known for their striking black plumage, form an intricate tapestry of pairs or small groups scattered across the rocky shores and islands. Their presence, although not as conspicuous as some migratory birds, graces the coastal landscape with a certain understated charm.

Physical Characteristics

The Black Guillemot, a captivating avian specimen, epitomizes a medium-sized bird, boasting dimensions that typically span a graceful 30–32 cm (12–15 in), accompanied by wings that extend with majestic spans ranging between 52 and 58 cm (21–23 in). This exquisite creature, adorned in both summer and winter plumage, carries a weighty burden, its body weight fluctuating gracefully between 300-460g (0.7 – 1 lb). The exquisite allure of this species extends beyond mere size, delving into the intricate details that set it apart in the avian realm.

Plumage Variation

Within the intricate tapestry of the Black Guillemot’s existence, the canvas of its plumage undergoes a dramatic transformation, a visual spectacle that captivates observers with the finesse of nature’s artistry. As the summer sun graces the bird’s habitat, a breathtaking display unfolds, rendering the creature entirely black save for a conspicuous, expansive white patch adorning the upper expanse of its wings. This striking contrast, a testament to the avian realm’s capacity for visual poetry, lends the species its resonant English moniker, the “Black Guillemot.”

Seasonal Aesthetics

Embarking on a seasonal metamorphosis, the Black Guillemot discards its obsidian cloak in a symphony of colors heralding the advent of fall. In this molting spectacle, the upper plumage acquires delicate bars of light gray and white, a harmonious departure from the summer’s monochromatic dominance. The head adopts a muted palette of pale gray, while the underparts embrace an immaculate white. Legs and feet follow suit, donning a delicate hue of pale pink that complements the evolving ensemble. The black beak and the enduring white wing patch stand resolute amidst this seasonal transition, evoking a nuanced appreciation for the bird’s adaptability.

Auditory Symphony

Beyond the visual allure, the Black Guillemot contributes to the auditory symphony of its habitat during the breeding season. A distinctive and intense whistle pierces the air, a testament to the avian orchestra that permeates the breeding grounds. It is during this time that the pink gape, an arresting feature within the bird’s mouth, assumes prominence, adding a layer of intrigue to the sensory experience of encountering the Black Guillemot.

Youthful Distinction

In the sprawling expanse of the avian world, the Black Guillemot extends its distinctive features even to its juveniles and immatures. These nascent beings are easily discernible by the prominent white wing patch adorned with gray or brown feathers. Even at considerable distances in the field, this distinguishing characteristic remains visible, a testament to the species’ commitment to visual identity even in its earliest stages of life. The intricate interplay of hues and patterns renders each stage of the Black Guillemot’s existence a chapter in a captivating narrative of nature’s ceaseless creativity.

Unwavering Residency: Seasonal Stillness

Unlike some migratory species that traverse vast distances between seasons, the black guillemot exhibits a penchant for constancy. Throughout the winter months, these elegant birds maintain a steadfast residency in their chosen breeding locations. A keen observer, exploring the coastal environs during this period, is more likely to catch glimpses of these avian denizens in their characteristic breeding habitats.

Habitat Harmony: A Closer Look at Breeding Grounds

Delving into the intricacies of the black guillemot’s lifestyle reveals an affinity for specific breeding habitats. The bird’s distinct presence is most pronounced in rocky shores, cliffs, and islands. These locales become the canvas upon which the black guillemot paints its life, existing either in solitary grace or in small, harmonious groups of pairs. The proximity to the sea adds a dynamic element to their existence, creating a picturesque backdrop for their breeding endeavors.

Diving Dynamics: The Unique Feeding Rituals

The black guillemot’s feeding habits are a testament to its adaptability and resourcefulness. With a penchant for plunging towards the seafloor, this avian marvel engages in a captivating display of underwater prowess. Fish, crustaceans, and various benthic invertebrates form the culinary palette upon which the black guillemot thrives. This dynamic feeding strategy not only sustains the species but also adds an element of intrigue to their daily routines.

Black Guillemot Vocalizations

The auditory world of the black guillemot is a captivating symphony of nature’s expressions. This avian virtuoso articulates its presence through a melodic ensemble, a collection of notes that resonate with both subtlety and vigor. Each note, a testament to the bird’s communication prowess, contributes to a mesmerizing auditory landscape. The black guillemot’s voice is not merely a utilitarian tool for survival; it is an art form, a manifestation of avian eloquence that echoes across marine landscapes.

Dietary Habits: A Marine Gastronomy

Survival in the tumultuous marine realm demands a discerning palate, and the black guillemot is a master of gastronomic adaptation. Its food plan is a testament to its prowess as a marine predator, relying predominantly on a diet of marine fish and crustaceans. Through a delicate interplay of beak and skill, the black guillemot navigates the vast expanses of the ocean, securing sustenance from the rich bounty that the sea offers. This marine gastronomy is a crucial aspect of the bird’s survival strategy, intricately woven into the tapestry of its existence.

Black guillemot or tystie bird profile, lifespan, habitat, breeding, plumage, range, diet, mating, wings, eggs, migration, fledgling, call

Intricate Breeding Practices

The black guillemot’s reproductive saga unfolds amidst the rugged grandeur of coastal landscapes. Nesting is not a mundane task; it is an intricate choreography of life. Amidst boulders at the base of cliffs, within the labyrinthine recesses of rock crevices, and even within the confines of man-made structures like piers, the black guillemot orchestrates its nesting ritual. The bird is versatile, choosing both solitary endeavors and participating in loose colonies. This breeding behavior is a testament to the adaptability and resourcefulness embedded in the avian tapestry.

Wintering Resilience

As the seasons shift and winter’s icy grip tightens, the black guillemot remains resilient in the face of adversity. Unlike migratory counterparts that embark on long journeys, this steadfast bird winters in the proximity of its breeding sites. A resilient sentinel along the shoreline, it can be observed inshore throughout the year, braving the elements with an unwavering presence. The wintering habits of the black guillemot unveil a tale of survival intricately woven into the fabric of its life cycle, a testament to its ability to endure and thrive in the dynamic coastal ecosystem.

Intriguing Summer Plumage

During the summer, the black guillemots present a captivating display of monochrome elegance. Their sleek bodies are entirely black, adorned with a remarkable touch of contrast — a conspicuous, expansive white oval patch on each wing. This distinctive feature not only adds a touch of mystique to their appearance but also serves as a striking visual marker in their avian community. The vibrancy of this seasonal plumage is further accentuated by the guillemots’ eye-catching pink legs and a pink gape, creating a picturesque ensemble against the backdrop of coastal landscapes.

Auk Species: Maritime Wonders in Breeding Season

Black guillemots, classified as a species of Auk, are creatures of the sea, their terrestrial presence limited to the breeding season. Standing smaller than their Guillemot relatives yet slightly larger than the Puffin, these marine wonders unfold a spectacle on land during the breeding season. Their presence is a spectacle, their plump bodies characterized by a distinctive heaviness in the rear, and a peculiar flying posture with their heads pointing upwards, creating a unique silhouette against the open expanse of the sky.

Winter Transformations: A Cloak of White Elegance

As the seasons change, so does the guise of the black guillemots. In winter, the once-black plumage undergoes a dramatic transformation, turning immaculate white. The wings, which once bore the bold white oval patches, now exhibit intricate black barring. The stark contrast of white feathers against the dark wings adds an element of sophistication to their winter attire. Notably, their vibrant pink legs persist even in this season, providing a subtle nod to their summer vibrancy.

Distinctive Identification Challenges: Breeding vs. Winter

Distinguishing black guillemots in the breeding season from their winter counterparts can be a perplexing task. In their breeding splendor, the black guillemots may seem uniformly dark from a distance, showcasing a seamless integration of black plumage and strikingly contrasting white upper wing patches. Conversely, in winter, their white underbelly with intricate white barring above may initially deceive observers. However, the upper wing pattern, reminiscent of the breeding season, serves as a reliable marker for identifying this captivating species, offering a testament to the dynamic nature of these avian wonders.

Coastal Distribution in the British Isles

Nesting strategically on cliffs and rocky islands scattered along the coast of Scotland, the Isle of Man, and select sites in England and Wales, the black guillemot has carved out a distinctive habitat for itself. Choosing its breeding grounds meticulously, this seabird establishes nests with an almost calculated precision. During the winter months, these birds either remain on or close to their breeding territories, creating a fascinating seasonal pattern of migration and habitation.

Striking Summer Plumage and Distinctive Features

During the summer months, the black guillemot boasts a striking appearance, characterized by a uniform black plumage adorned with a conspicuous large white patch on the upper aspect of its wings. The symmetry of this distinctive marking adds a captivating allure to the bird’s aesthetic. Both male and female black guillemots exhibit remarkably similar physical characteristics during this season, creating an intriguing uniformity in their appearances.

Winter Transformations: A Palette of Colors

The winter transformation of the black guillemot brings forth a dramatic change in its color palette. Adult birds showcase a dichotomy between their upper and underparts during this season. The underparts turn a pristine white, creating a stark contrast to the pale gray upperparts. The back and shoulders, in particular, exhibit a mesmerizing pattern of barred light gray and white, adding a touch of intricacy to the bird’s winter plumage. The bill, elongated and slender, takes on a black hue, while the feet adopt a striking coral-red color.

Breeding Behavior and Nests

Intriguingly, these captivating birds choose the rugged landscapes for their breeding grounds. They opt for the base of cliffs, the lower slopes, or even rocky islands, crafting nests that harmonize with the natural ruggedness of their chosen locations. Black guillemots, although not forming large colonies, grace the observer with their presence in small, enchanting numbers.

Reproductive Patterns

The black guillemot engages in breeding activities characterized by solitary pairs or small groups during their breeding season, commencing in late February and extending into early May. The breeding pairs follow a consistent pattern, typically laying 2-egg clutches and meticulously raising 2 chicks until they reach the fledgling stage. The incubation period lasts for a span of 28 to 32 days, during which the parents diligently tend to the eggs. The fledging period, spanning 30 to 40 days, marks the transition of chicks from dependence to independence. RPM 3.0 – 60% CONVERSION & Money for Affiliate Marketing

Maternal Care and Post-Fledging Independence

Post-hatching, the chicks receive unwavering care and attention from their parents until they are ready to fledge. This intense care regime extends until the fledglings reach the age of 30 to 40 days. Once fully fledged, the chicks achieve complete independence and embark on their journey. Intriguingly, by the age of three or four years, these once-dependent fledglings begin to reunite with their natal colony, marking a fascinating cycle of life and familial bonds.

Linguistic Roots: Cepphus, Grylle, and Guillemot

Delving into the linguistic origins, the genus name “Cepphus” draws inspiration from Ancient Greek, specifically “kepphos,” a term used by Greek authors, including Aristotle, to describe a pale waterbird. The species name “grylle” finds its roots in the local dialect of Gotland, serving as the native name for this bird during Linnaeus’s visit in 1741. The English term “guillemot” traces its etymological journey back to French, with “guillemot” likely derived from the name “Guillaume,” meaning “William.” This linguistic tapestry weaves together various historical and cultural threads, providing an enriched understanding of the black guillemot’s nomenclature. Bird accessories on Amazon

Conservation Status: Least Concern Amidst the Waves

Within the realm of conservation, the Black Guillemot grapples with its own narrative, inscribed in the annals of avian protection. Categorized within the United Kingdom as Amber below the Birds of Conservation Concern 4, the Pink Record for Birds (2015) paints a nuanced picture of its conservation standing. This designation, akin to a classification symphony, underscores the urgency and importance of preserving the habitats that cradle the Black Guillemot’s existence. The intricacies of its conservation chronicles unfold as scientists and conservationists collaborate to safeguard the delicate balance of this enigmatic species within the broader ecological tapestry.

Despite the challenges faced by many bird species in the modern era, the black guillemot stands resilient. Its conservation status, as per the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), places it on the list of species of least concern. This categorization underscores the robustness of the black guillemot population, highlighting the importance of understanding and preserving the delicate ecosystems that support these remarkable avian residents.

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