Black Guillemot

Cepphus grylle

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The Black Guillemot, a member of the alcid family, spends most of its life on the water and also winters there. Its habitat is almost circumpolar in the boreal, low and high Arctic; it is a regular visitor to the German Baltic coast. It only comes ashore to breed - on the rocky coasts of northern Europe and the North Pacific. The black guillemot is a cavity-nesting bird and builds its nest, when available, from pebbles, shells and seaweed sheltered on cliffs, in crevices, under large stones or between boulders. Black guillemots exhibit high nest-site and mate fidelity. Self-forming, loose breeding colonies remain relatively small, although the density increases commensurate with the food supply. They occupy the lower shelves of so-called "bird (or nesting) cliffs" where several different species breed. The black guillemot has a distinctive plumage, with no identifiable sexual difference (monomorphism): the plumage is entirely black, except for a large oval white patch on the upper side of the wing. The underside of the wings is also white. Legs and feet are a luminous coral-red, as are the inside of the bill and the gullet. Unlike other alcids, the black guillemot usually lays 2 eggs. Both parents incubate and participate in the rearing of the young. After about 4 weeks, the chicks hatch and are fledged and independent after about 30 to 40 days. The black guillemot prefers shallow waters near the coast as its hunting grounds. Their prey: fish, crustaceans and various molluscs. Like its relative, the puffin, the black guillemot carries larger food, such as fish, crosswise in its bill. These adept divers use their wings to swim under water.

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