Surf Smelt
Sand Lance
Native Plants
Bald Eagle
Harbor Seal
Pigeon Guillemot
Cepphus columba  
The Pigeon Guillemot lives year round along Puget Sound. A pigeon-sized water bird, the pigeon guillemot dives using its wings for paddles and its feet for rudders. Pigeon guillemots dive in shallow water for sculpins, sand lance, and smelt. They also feed in kelp beds and in waters near spits and jetties.

Bluff Nester

Pigeon guillemots nest in rocky crevices or sandy bluffs in late spring and summer. Nest sites occur on Smith, Sentinel, Flower, and Protection Islands. Nests can also be found in bluffs on the east side of Vashon, Fox, and Anderson Islands. Guillemots often seek the cover of overhanging soil and plants on high bluffs for nesting.

Pigeon guillemots dig holes in cliffs for nest sites. They use their narrow beaks to pry out stones, and sharp toe nails to scrape. Cliff nests are placed in crevices or hollows where one or two greenish, dark spotted eggs are laid.


Pigeon Guillemot Facts

  • Winter White
    In the winter, pigeon guillemots display a white head and mottled underparts.
  • White Patch
    Mature pigeon guillemots have a white wing patch while at rest or in flight; immature guillemots have a mottled wing patch. Length: About 10 ½ inches. Sexes: look similar. Narrow, dark bill. Dark inside wings.
  • Red feet and legs
    In all seasons, pigeon guillemots can be identified by brilliant red legs and feet.
  • Listen for whistles
    The pigeon guillemot makes high whistles near breeding bluffs in the spring.
    Guillemots Nesting: Do Not Disturb

    Pigeon Guillemots nest in cliff crevices, bluff holes, and under beach logs. People and pets pose a threat to guillemots in these areas during nesting. Climbing on cliffs can destroy nests. Even a walk on the beach with a dog can lead to problems for guillemots. Boats can also frighten guillemots from feeding areas.

    • Do not climb bluffs. Your foot or hand may smash an egg or disturb a nest.
    • Keep dogs and other pets under control and away from birds and nests.
    • Avoid boating near sensitive nesting sites and feeding areas.
    • Keep an undisturbed buffer of native plants on the edge of your waterfront bluff. A buffer helps prevent erosion and provides protection for nesting guillemots.

    Related Topics

    Landscaping, Plant buffers for erosion control and wildlife.
    Native Plants, Food and shelter for wildlife.

    Related Links

    Pigeon Guillemot, USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center. Pigeon Guillemot identification and animated range map. 

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