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Unraveling the Mysteries of the Black Guillemot: Behaviors Adaptations and Conservation Efforts

The Black Guillemot, also known as Cepphus grylle, is a fascinating bird species that is native to the Arctic region. This small seabird is known for its distinctive black and white plumage, bright red feet, and beady black eyes.

In this article, we will explore the identification and different plumages of the Black Guillemot, highlighting its unique features and characteristics.

Identification

Field Identification

The Black Guillemot is a small seabird, about 12 inches in length and with a wingspan of approximately 20 inches. It has a black head, back, tail, and wings, with a distinctive white belly and underwings.

The bill is short and black, with a downward curve at the tip. Its feet and legs are bright red, contrasting sharply with its black and white plumage.

Similar Species

The Black Guillemot is often mistaken for other birds such as the Black-legged Kittiwake, but can be easily distinguished by its short bill and distinctive red feet. Other similar species include the Pigeon Guillemot, which has a stout black bill, and the Common Murre, which has a long, narrow bill.

Plumages

The Black Guillemot has two distinct plumages breeding and non-breeding. The breeding plumage is characterized by a jet-black body, with a white patch above its eyes.

The eyes are also ringed with a distinctive white feather, creating a striking contrast against the black plumage. During the breeding season, the feet and bill of the Black Guillemot become bright red, signaling its readiness for mating.

During the non-breeding season, the Black Guillemot molts its breeding plumage, replacing it with a more muted brown and black plumage. Its feet and bill also become paler, losing their bright red color.

This change in plumage allows the bird to blend in better with its surroundings, providing it with better protection against predators.

Molts

The Black Guillemot undergoes a complete molt, which takes place once a year. Molting is the process of replacing worn-out feathers with new ones, providing the bird with better insulation and flight performance.

The molt takes place after the breeding season, usually in July or August, and that is why the bird changes plumage from its distinctive black and white to a more drab brown. In conclusion, the Black Guillemot is a fascinating bird species that is native to the Arctic region.

Its distinctive black and white plumage, bright red feet, and beady black eyes set it apart from other bird species. The Black Guillemot undergoes two distinct plumages, breeding and non-breeding, and molts once a year.

Understanding these unique features of the Black Guillemot will help bird enthusiasts identify and appreciate this remarkable seabird. article, as the information will be presented in a comprehensive manner.

Systematics History

The systematics history of a species describes its classification over time. This includes the geographic variation, subspecies, and related species.

In the case of the Black Guillemot (Cepphus grylle), its classification has changed over time as our understanding of the species has evolved.

Geographic Variation

Geographic variation refers to variations in a species’ physical characteristics across different geographic regions. In the case of the Black Guillemot, there are various differences in its physical traits, such as the size and coloration of the bill, depending on which region it is found in.

Subspecies

Subspecies are distinct populations within a species that differ in certain physical characteristics. The Black Guillemot has five recognized subspecies, each with its unique set of physical characteristics:

1.

C.g. arcticus – found in the Arctic region and characterized by a small bill. 2.

C.g. mandtii – found along the North American coast and characterized by a large bill. 3.

C.g. nigriddorsalis – found in East Greenland and characterized by blackish-gray dorsal feathers. 4.

C.g. islandicus – found in Iceland and characterized by a small bill with narrow white stripes. 5.

C.g. faeroensis – found in the Faroe Islands, characterized by a small bill and broad white stripes.

Related Species

The Black Guillemot is part of the Cepphus genus, which includes five other similar guillemot species: Spectacled Guillemot, Pigeon Guillemot, Marbled Guillemot, Long-billed Guillemot, and the Black Guillemot’s closest relative, the Pallas’s Guillemot. The Pallas’s Guillemot is virtually identical to the Black Guillemot in terms of morphological and ecological characteristics.

Historical Changes to Distribution

The distribution of the Black Guillemot has undergone a historical shift over the years. The species was originally found only in the Arctic regions, but now can be found along the coastal waters of North America and Eurasia.

The Black Guillemot was first described in 1758 by Carl Linnaeus. At that time, the bird was only found in the Arctic regions of North America and Eurasia.

However, as the exploration of new lands increased, the distribution of the Black Guillemot was discovered to be more widespread. For example, the Black Guillemot was not reported in Iceland until the early 20th century, but since then, it has become a regular non-breeding visitor to the waters around the country.

Similarly, breeding populations of the Black Guillemot were first recorded in the Faroe Islands in the early 1970s. The expansion of human activities such as fishing and shipping has also provided the Black Guillemot with new habitats.

In some areas, they have adapted to artificial nest boxes and even colonized offshore oil platforms. However, despite these changes, the Black Guillemot remains sensitive to the impacts of human activity such as oil spills and overfishing.

In conclusion, the systematics history of the Black Guillemot shows that its classification has changed over time as our understanding of the species has evolved. Geographic variation, subspecies, and related species provide insight into the unique characteristics and adaptations of the Black Guillemot.

The historical changes to its distribution illustrate the impact of human activities on the species and the importance of conservation efforts to protect its habitat and populations. article, as the information will be presented in a comprehensive manner.

Habitat

Black Guillemots are primarily marine birds that can be found along the coasts of the northern hemisphere. They usually inhabit rocky coastlines, sea cliffs, and islands with crevices and cracks where they can roost and nest.

They are also known to inhabit areas around artificial structures like piers, jetties, and breakwaters. Black Guillemots are typically found in areas with cold waters and cold air temperatures.

They are often associated with the Arctic environment and are known to live in the high Arctic regions of Canada, Alaska, Russia, and Scandinavia. In the warmer months, they can be found in slightly more southern waters, including the North Atlantic Ocean around Newfoundland, the Gulf of Maine, and Iceland.

Black Guillemots generally live and nest within close proximity to other guillemot species, such as the Common and Thick-billed Guillemots.

Movements and Migration

Black Guillemots are non-migratory in the northern parts of their range. However, some populations of Black Guillemots that breed in southern or mid-latitude regions will migrate to warmer or more productive waters.

One example is the population of Black Guillemots that breed in Maine and Canada east to Newfoundland, that migrate south in winter to the Gulf of Mexico and the southeastern coast of the United States. In contrast, the populations that breed in the high Arctic regions overwinter off the coast and feed in nearby waters during milder weather in winter.

During winter, Black Guillemots retain their distinctive black and white breeding plumage, and still have their bright-red feet and legs. They are usually found alone or in small groups along the rocky coastlines, and they roost communally, returning each night to the same location.

Breeding season for Black Guillemots begins in April or May, depending on their location and the ice conditions. Nesting pairs prefer to breed and spend their summers on small, isolated islands in the Arctic.

They construct their nests in crevices or ledges on cliffs, or in rockpiles onshore. The nest is usually made of pebbles and grasses.

The female lays one to three eggs, and both parents incubate the eggs and feed the young. The chicks hatch in late June or July, and the parents feed them small fish, crustaceans, and mollusks procured in the waters near their nests.

For the first few weeks, the parents feed the chicks mostly in the nest or in nearby rockpiles. When the chicks reach 3-4 weeks old, they are able to jump from the nest and begin exploring the rocks around their colony.

As summer proceeds, young Black Guillemots tend to leave their natal island and move to nearby islands, where they may join up with other young birds before beginning their migration. These younger birds may remain in their first wintering grounds for several years before returning to Arctic breeding areas.

In conclusion, the Black Guillemot is a seabird that primarily inhabits Arctic regions. They typically live and nest within close proximity to other guillemot species, such as the Common and Thick-billed Guillemots.

Black Guillemots are non-migratory in the northern parts of their range, however, some populations of Black Guillemots that breed in southern or mid-latitude regions will migrate to warmer or more productive waters. During the breeding season, they construct their nests in crevices or ledges on cliffs, or in rockpiles onshore, and the chicks are fed by both parents.

article, as the information will be presented in a comprehensive manner.

Diet and Foraging

Black Guillemots are opportunistic feeders that consume a variety of marine organisms. During the breeding season, they feed on small schooling fish, such as capelin, Arctic cod, and sand lance, as well as mollusks and crustaceans.

They are also known to prey on small invertebrates and plankton during lean periods.

Feeding

Black Guillemots forage typically involves surface diving or pursuit diving to catch their prey. They generally dive to depths of less than 30 feet and occasionally reach depths of more than 80 feet.

To catch their prey, they use their wings to propel themselves through the water and their feet to steer. They also dive headfirst and use their wings to increase the speed of descent.

Once underwater, they use their beaks to capture their prey, which may be located by sight or sound.

Diet

The diet of Black Guillemots can vary depending on where they are feeding. In the high Arctic, they primarily eat Arctic cod, while in the lower latitudes, they consume a wider variety of prey, including herring, sand lance, and capelin.

Black Guillemots have a specialized stomach that allows them to digest hard-shelled prey such as clams, mussels, and snails. They can also ingest non-food items that may become mixed in with the prey, and these objects are stored in their sublingual pouch, which they regurgitate later.

Metabolism and Temperature Regulation

Black Guillemots are endothermic, meaning that they have an internal heat source that allows them to regulate their body temperature. They have a high basal metabolic rate which gives them the energy to maintain the high body temperature needed to function in cold marine environments.

In cold water, Black Guillemots have a counter-current heat exchange system in their legs that allows the warm arterial blood to be cooled by the venous blood returning to the body. This system keeps the body core temperature higher and saves energy that would be needed to generate new heat.

Sounds and Vocal

Behavior

Black Guillemots have distinctive and complex vocalizations that are used for communication and courtship. Their vocalizations consist of various trills, whistles, and chirps that have been studied extensively.

Vocalization

During the breeding season, Black Guillemots use vocalizations to communicate with their mates and defend their nest sites from other birds. They have a complex system of calls, songs, and displays that they use to convey information about their social status, reproductive state, and territorial boundaries.

Both males and females can produce vocalizations, but only males sing elaborate songs. These songs are performed primarily on nesting sites, and consist of a series of trills, whistles, and chirps that vary in duration and pitch.

Similarly, females use distinct vocalizations during the courtship, primarily to attract potential mates. They also use a distinct vocalization during nest exchanges, when one parent returns to the nest to relieve the other parent of incubation duties.

In conclusion, Black Guillemots are opportunistic feeders that consume a variety of marine organisms. They have a specialized stomach that allows them to digest hard-shelled prey and ingest non-food items that may become mixed in with the prey.

Black Guillemots have a high basal metabolic rate, allowing them to maintain a high body temperature required to function in cold marine environments. Black Guillemots have a complex system of calls, songs, and displays used to convey information about their social status, reproductive state, and territorial boundaries.

They are fascinating birds with unique adaptations that allow them to thrive in the harsh marine environment. article, as the information will be presented in a comprehensive manner.

Behavior

Black Guillemots exhibit a variety of behaviors related to locomotion, self-maintenance, agonistic, and sexual behaviors.

Locomotion

Black Guillemots are excellent swimmers and divers, and they use their wings to propel themselves through the water, while their legs are used for steering. During flight, they use rapid wingbeats to maintain their course, dipping low over the water to pick up speed.

They also fly in short bursts, a few seconds at a time, and use their feet to brake and land on the water surface.

Self-Maintenance

Black Guillemots spend much of their time preening and maintaining their feathers. This behavior is essential in keeping their feathers in good condition, which is vital for their insulation and aerodynamics.

Agonistic

Behavior

Black Guillemots have a complex system of aggressive and submissive behaviors that they use to establish territories and defend their nests. These behaviors include posturing, displaying, pecking, biting, and wing-thrusting.

Sexual

Behavior

Black Guillemots engage in a variety of sexual behaviors during the breeding season. Males will court females by presenting gifts of food, performing courtship behaviors, and displaying brightly colored feathers.

They will also engage in displays such as bowing, head-bobbing, and puffing themselves out to seem larger and more impressive.

Breeding

Black Guillemots typically breed in small, isolated groups of two to 20 pairs, and they prefer to nest in crevices or ledges on cliffs, rockpiles, or onshore. They build their nests from pebbles, grasses, and sometimes feathers or other soft materials.

Females lay one to three eggs per clutch. Both parents take turns incubating the eggs and providing food to the chicks.

The incubation period lasts about 28 days. Chicks hatch between June and July and are fed small fish, crustaceans, and mollusks procured in the nearby waters.

The parents continue to feed the chicks until they are old enough to leave, usually between 28 and 35 days. After fledging, the young birds may form flocks with other juveniles in the area.

Demography and Populations

Black Guillemot populations vary across their range, with some populations in decline due to habitat loss and pollution. In other areas, populations are stable or increasing.

The species is classified as least concern according to the IUCN Red List. A study conducted by the United States Geological Survey indicated that Black Guillemot populations declined in a majority of their Canadian and Alaskan range between 1977 and 2003.

The study also points to the loss of Arctic sea ice as a possible factor contributing to the decline in numbers. Conservation efforts have been put in place to help protect and restore Black Guillemot populations.

These include habitat preservation, oil spill response planning, and monitoring industrial activity along coastlines. In conclusion, Black Guillemots exhibit a variety of behaviors related to locomotion, self-maintenance, agonistic, and sexual behaviors.

They usually breed in small groups and prefer to nest in crevices or ledges on cliffs, rockpiles, or onshore. Both parents take care of their young, dividing responsibilities for incubation and feeding.

Black Guillemot populations are variable across their range, and some populations are in decline due to habitat loss and pollution. Conservation efforts have been established to help protect and restore these birds.

Black Guillemots are fascinating seabirds that are native to the Arctic regions. Our understanding of the species has evolved over time, and we now know that they have unique adaptations that allow them to thrive in the harsh marine environment.

From their distinct plumage patterns to their complex vocalizations, Black Guillemots have intrigued scientists and bird enthusiasts alike. Their diverse behaviors and habits highlight their importance as an indicator species for monitoring coastal and marine ecosystems.

Despite ongoing threats to their habitats and populations, conservation efforts are helping to protect Black Guil

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