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Pigeon guillemot

Pigeon guillemot

On Exhibit: Open Sea , Found in Monterey Bay

Animal Facts

  • Scientific Name

    Cepphus columba

  • Animal Type


  • Diet

    small fishes, molluscs, crustaceans and marine worms

  • Size

    13-14 inches (33-36 cm)

  • Relatives

    puffins, murres, murrelets, auks, family Alcidae

  • Habitat

    Coastal Waters

  • Range

    From Arctic Sea to Japan; Alaska to Southern California

Natural History

If you visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium, you can observe pigeon guillemots from our decks. Look for black birds with white upper wing patches marked by a black triangle. Pigeon guillemots have long black bills; fairly long, slender necks; and distinctive red legs. You might also see them nesting on ledges under the Aquarium.


Pigeon guillemots feed in shallow nearshore waters. They, and the fishes they eat, are vulnerable to oil spills. In fact, the birds' population is declining as a result of past oil spills, pollution, and warming climate conditions.

Pigeon guillemots nest in rock crevices and under tree roots at the top of rocky cliffs and steep slopes. This helps protect them from predators such as mammals and other birds.

Cool Facts

In spring, pairs gather together and perform a courtship "water-dance"—calling, diving and chasing each other. 

The pigeon guillemot uses its wings to swim while searching for food—it seems to be flying under water. 

Both parents feed their chicks, bringing them an average of 16 loads a day, one fish at a time. Chicks eat the fishes whole, head first. They gain weight rapidly, tripling their weight within 10 days.

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