Readers’ wildlife photos

February 7, 2021 • 8:00 am

This is the final installment of John Avise‘s “Faux Duck” series, featuring waterfowl that people think are ducks but aren’t. I hope you’ve learned to recognize some of them. Can you guess this one? Look at the seven photos, make your guess, and then go below the fold for the ID, some facts about the species, and a range map.

Adult breeder swimming:

Bird surface-diving:

Adult breeder standing:’

Juvenile at sea:

Juvenile or non-breeder on land:

Breeding pair:

Close-up view of breeding adult:

Click “continue reading” for the ID, some Faux Duck Facts and a range map.

ID: Pigeon Guillemot (Cepphus columba)

With more than 20 species occurring in North America, the taxonomic family Alcidae comprises a diverse array of high-latitude seabirds including guillemots, puffins, auklets, murrelets, murres, razorbills, and dovekies.  In terms of their seafaring niche, alcids (which are confined to the Northern Hemisphere) are more-or-less the ecological equivalents of penguins in the Southern Hemisphere. Alcids typically surface-dive in open oceanic waters to catch fish, shrimp, and other food items, and most species nest along rocky cliffs or ledges.  After surface-diving, alcids use their wings for added propulsion and in effect to “fly” underwater.  The drab plumages of most alcids are basically patterned in black-and-white, and species identification can be difficult, especially at sea.  This week’s species is the only alcid for which I have decent pictures, so it is the only one we will consider for our final installment of the “faux-duck” series on WEIT. The Pigeon Guillemot in breeding condition is all black except for a large white patch on its side (and bright red feet!).  Juveniles and non-breeding adults are much paler with a mix of white and grays. The bill is thin and straight. This diminutive species nests in rock crevices and may be seen swimming along shorelines or sitting on exposed rocks on the Pacific Coast of the U.S. and Canada.

A range map from the Cornell bird site:


9 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photos

  1. I love pigeon guillemots. Every year I go to the coast intent on learning the names of the shore birds I see. The next year I go back remembering none except the pigeon guillemot which is distinctive with its brightly colored feet, stubby wings and loud trill. A wonderful sea bird, also numerous.

  2. I am not familiar with this bird but will now start looking as it’s probably right in my backyard.
    Great series!

  3. Thank you so much for this series! I knew most of the ones found along the east coast, but wasn’t familiar with the western ones.

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