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Bird Sightings : Hebrides : Guillemot

Hebrides Bird Sightings : Guillemot


(Common Guillemot)

Uria aalge

Gaelic: Eun-dubh-an-sgadain, Gearradh Breac


Photography © Terry Fountain
St Kilda - Outer Hebrides (Western Isles)
3rd June 2007


Our Guillemot photographs

with chick


  • Guillemot
  • Uria aalge
  • Gaelic: Eun-dubh-an-sgadain, Gearradh Breac
  • WI: Abundant migrant breeder (10,000+ breeding pairs)
  • Diet: Guillemots eat mostly schooling fish, hence their ability as agile swimmers, they also eat marine worms, squid and some crustaceans
  • 38cm to 46cm length. Black on the top of the head. Wings and back. White underparts.
    Summer adult black of the head extends down to the neck. Winter adult chin & cheeks are white. Appears to have short neck and beaks tilts upward when are on the water.
  • Guillemots can live for up to 22 years
  • Similar birds: Razorbill


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). They can dive down to 50 metres.

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, rarely a harbour. (Sometimes you can see rafts of Razorbills 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.


Guillemot records in the Western Isles

Abundant migrant breeder (10,000+ breeding pairs)


On the chart below the darker the shade of blue the more abundant the bird is during a month or the more likely you are to see it.

























(Source: Outer Hebrides Birds Checklist)



Other local bird photographs

Sources of information for the bird sightings section

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