Posts Tagged ‘Guillemot’

Hello from Metinic!

We’ve been stuck in foggy weather lately so the sunshine today was great!

On Metinic Island we monitor an assortment of birds, one of these is the black guillemot. On July 2nd we found our first guillemot chicks. So lets talk a bit abut these charismatic birds.

We monitor around 20 nests every three to four days. This monitoring is no easy task, because the guillemots like to nest on the rocky coasts here. The first thing we have to do is traverse the rocks out to places where we have nests marked, and that’s not even the hard part! The next step is to peer into the crevasse where they’ve nested. Sometimes we peek in and see an adult on eggs, other times we spot one to two eggs and recently we’ve found chicks!

Sometimes though we can’t even see the nest so we muster all the bravery we can and stick our hand shoulder-deep into the rocks and feel around. Frequently we are lucky enough to feel eggs. Other times we might get a quick jab from a parent, which always makes you jump. Once chicks are in the nest we might even end up with our hand in chick poo. The best thing to grab though is a fluffy little chick. Once we get ahold of them we gently extract them from their rocky hole, weigh and measure them. Eventually we will be banding them so that they can be identified in the future.

I honestly think the guillemot chicks are one of the cutest. Pitch black except for when they open their bright red mouth. Once they are adults their feet will also turn bright red and they will develop white wing patches that make them very distinguished.

Check back in next week for more from Metinic!

Guillemot Egg

Black Guillemot egg in nest

Guillemot Chick in Nest

Black Guillemot chicks in their nest

Guillemot Chick

“Excuse me! Put me down.”

Guillemot Chick 2

First Guillemot chick found this year

Black Guillemot Jumping

Adult Black Guillemot jumping out of its nest

Read Full Post »

Hello friends, Hallie here from Petit Manan Island!

Life here on Petit Manan is going so well. Our tern chicks are hatched and getting close to fledging, our pufflings are fluffier and plumper than ever, and we even have our first black guillemot and razorbill chicks.

One of the cool things about working on such a small island like this is when you have a new avian visitor, you notice. We are up to 110 bird species recorded on Petit Manan Island this season, which is remarkable in itself. We have had everything from warblers to short-billed dowitchers to even a least bittern, a small bird that you typically find in marshlands on the mainland. And as well, we have had a lot of birds with interesting plumage show up to the island — like this Common Murre.


Leucistic Common Murre next to Razorbill and Atlantic Puffin

Common Murres are usually a dark chocolate brown, which is produced by melanin. This bird,  however, is silvery-grey — a result of a genetic mutation that inhibits melanin production. This result is called leucism, which is similar, yet very different to albinism. Regardless, it makes up for a stunning result — this bird very well may be one of the more beautiful I have ever seen. Whether or not male or female common murres also think so is up for debate — hopefully this bird’s unique plumage will not inhibit it from procreating in the future.

Melanin is one of many ways birds color themselves. The laughing gulls here use melanin to create that dark mask during the breeding season, which they use to deter other laughing gulls from their nests. You also often see birds with darkened wing-tips, like the terns, in which the melanin is used to strengthen the feathers and make them more durable.


Adult Atlantic Puffin showing the orange-red carotenoid coloration in the bill and eye

But what other colors do we see here on PMI that have significance in birds?  Since we have been catching puffins this last week, I have been captivated by the bright orange feet and bills that the puffins display during the breeding season.  Puffins, and many other birds, get this rich orange-red color from carotenoids — a color they metabolize directly from their food. Puffins use the intensity of this color to show potential mates and rivals how fit they may be. The brighter their bills and feet, the better at fishing and raising a chick they may be! You can also see melanin in the feet and the mouths of black guillemots!

Next time you see a color in a bird, its worth asking exactly why it is that way. Often even the most subtle of colors on a bird have such an immense meaning. I will be doing the same — sitting here wondering why we get tern chicks in two different colors. Any ideas?


Common Tern chicks from the same nest showing the two different plumage colorations

Read Full Post »

Black Guillemots have begun to nest on Petit Manan and for the last couple weeks we have been busy locating burrows and marking them for monitoring. Other alcids, inlcuding Razorbills and Atlantic Puffins have begun to nest, too! Rock crevices and under washed up wood is where Guillemots choose to nest. Searching for burrows includes kneeling down to rock or wood level and looking for 1-2 eggs or an adult Guillemot. Finding them could get tricky!!


Searching a tricky burrow under the boat ramp.


More burrow searching…


Guillemot eggs.

June 27th was Guillemot Appreciation Day and to celebrate we made paper Guillemots to send to the other islands. Here on Petit Manan, everyday is Guillemot Appreciation Day with our own special Guillemot hanging over the kitchen table.


We searched the whole island perimeter and found 65 Black Guillemot burrows. The island crew will return to the marked Guillemot burrows every 3 days for monitoring. Also, we have 48 Atlantic Puffin burrows and 4 Razorbill burrows.

Today, we checked burrows and found 3 Guillemot chicks! Andddd while we were checking for Guillemots we found our first Puffin chicks and Razorbill chicks!!


Puffin Chick!!

Looking forward to all our alcid chicks hatching!

-Brittany 🙂


Read Full Post »


A Puffin relaxing on the rose granite

Greetings from Petit Manan! Things are well under way here on this island oasis – after all the mating happened, eggs of all shapes, sizes, and colors began to show up all around the island. We have eggs from 2-3 different Tern species, as well as Laughing Gulls and Common Eiders. Some tern eggs are brown while others are green, and some have beautifully woven nests of grasses and shells while others are laid on bare rock.


A typical brownish-gray Common Tern egg


Some heavily-mottled eggs in a very intricate nest


A full clutch of beautiful turquoise/green Arctic Tern eggs laid almost on bare rock. These birds would rather decorate with shells and sticks and feathers than weave the intricate nest bowls of Common Terns


A Common Eider nest concealed among the Angelica and lined with soft, warm down

We also have three different species of alcids nesting among our rocky shoreline: the Atlantic Puffin, Razorbill, and Black Guillemot. Each species, just like with terns, chooses nesting sites among the rocks with different criteria in mind, and they decorate their homes quite differently as well. But these eggs are not as easy to find…


Wayne checking the contents of a Guillemot burrow…


… and taking out the eggs for a closer look.


Puffins lay a single mostly-white egg in a warm nest of dried grasses brought into the burrow by the beak-full


Razorbills, on the other hand, lay one large, speckled egg on the bare rocks. You can tell these eggs from Guillemot eggs by the lack of a “ring” formed by the speckles at the large end.

Until next time!

– Julia




Read Full Post »

Well, it’s been a great summer here on Petit Manan. Tomorrow we say good bye to our little island, our birds and our bird people. 

Over the last week we wrapped up our Alcid (puffin, guillemots and razorbills) monitering for the summer. This summer we found 47 puffin, 68 guillemot, and two razorbill burrows. The razorbill chicks have already fledged, while most of the puffin and guillemot chicks are very close. Fun fact: male razorbills act as the post-fledging caretakers of the chick and teach the young how to hunt for fish!

We also wrapped up our season bird list at 106 species. As far as we know this is by far the most bird species seen on PMI in a summer. Not to brag or anything. Maybe we’ll put another one on the list tomorrow morning though….

Now we are packing up the research station and Jordan (our crew leader) is furiously assembling our data to be presented at this years Gulf of Maine Seabird Working Group (GOMSWG). It’s a bittersweet feeling at the end of an amazing summer filled with beautiful birds, good laughs, good food, and good people.



Read Full Post »


Tern egg on the rocks with decoys behind it

Things are looking up for the seabirds at the Brother’s Islands lately! Events have taken a Tern for the better with the arrival of a new Common Tern pair and their egg. For the past several days now a new pair of terns have taken up residence in the decoy area with our old standby, Reginald McArthur, the tern who has lived here alone for the past several years now.


Tern Egg laying on the rocks

He seems as happy as we are to have new friends to fish, play, and preen with as the three companions glide around the decoys together calling and circling. All this activity attracted yet another, fourth, tern to the area this morning and it was seen interacting with the others; we hope it will reTern and bring its friends! No one has paid much attention to the egg that was laid on the rocks but we continue to check and see if it has been rolled, an indication that it is being incubated by the parents. So far, it doesn’t look active, but just having the parents around is a huge step in the right direction!

Although you can’t see them, there are 4 Terns, 1 Razorbill, and 3 Least Sandpipers in this view from the blind!

In other news, Razorbill numbers have been increasing in the past few days as we have seen as many as 200+ flying in small flocks across the water. Several, presumably young birds looking for a nesting site, have visited the islands in the past few days, circling and flying very close to it. One razorbill came a mere 3 inches from landing in one of the decoy areas this morning before it veered off to rest in the water close to shore. He was back at it again during lunchtime as we were out doing our “chick checks.”

Speaking of chicks, the little black fuzz balls are continuing to thrive and grow, some have even begun to sprout real feathers and are looking more like gangly teenagers than young chicks now. It’s amazing how fast they grow, gaining sometimes over 1/3 of their body weight every 2 days. We now have 36 chicks in our productivity burrows with more hatching every day. All in all things are looking up for the Brother’s Islands! Here’s to hoping that the next few weeks continue to bring good news. Keep your fingers crossed!

– Julia

A pair of younger chicks, just because they are so cute! Photo by Wingyi.

Our oldest pair of Guillemot chicks: Alfonso and Bernadette, 16 and 17 days old.

Read Full Post »

Hello again! As many of you may now know today, June 27th, is guillemot appreciation day. This day holds a special meaning for us on the Brother’s, not just because it is the perfect excuse to eat chocolate cake, but also because three days ago we found our very first black guillemot chicks of the season.


We had a little trouble with the cake…

 Guillemot eggs do not usually hatch at the same time. Even eggs in the same burrow may be a day or two apart. The chick that hatches first is referred to as the A chick and is typically larger and heavier than the B chick. As part of our routine on the Brother’s we check guillemot burrows every two to three days. As the chicks are now beginning to hatch we will be measuring their wing cords and taking their weight during our checks to monitor their growth. At the end of the season these measurements will help us to determine the guillemot’s productivity. Our first A chick, Albert, weighed in today at a whopping 63g! Our B chick, Bathalamue, came in at a slightly more modest 57g. In order to continue to tell the chicks apart in their burrow as they grow we must somehow mark either one or both of the chicks. At this stage a small dab of nail polish on the A chicks down does the job quite nicely. Later on we may replace the nail polish with a more permanent metal band with an identification number around their leg so they can continue to be recognized in years to come.


Albert, looking for a fight!

Even though they are only a few days old Albert and Bathalamue have very distinctive personalities. Bathalamue is quite calm and lets us take our measurements without a fuss. Albert on the other hand is quite feisty and full of sass. From the moment we first pulled him out of the burrow he was a rage filled ball of fluff trying to snap at our fingers with his tiny black bill.

We found one new pair of chicks today and look forward to the next few weeks as still more will continue to hatch. We certainly appreciated our guillemots today and we hope you do the same!


Read Full Post »