Pigeon Guillemot (Cepphus columba)

During the mating season, the bright red feet of courting pairs of this little bird can be seen high in the sky, chasing each other.

Description:

Large white wing patches divided by black bars, a black body, and red feet make the pigeon guillemot quite recognizable in the summer. In the winter, it is less distinctive with its mostly white plumage that is mottled black on its back. This duck-like bird reaches up to 37 cm in length.

Distribution:

The pigeon guillemot occurs all along the coast of British Columbia, and nests in the southern half of the province wherever it can find suitable nesting sites - rocky coasts and inland waters.

Ecology:

The pigeon guillemot differs from most other alcids in several respects. For one, it nests in either small colonies or in solitary pairs, rather than in large colonies. For another, it is also less pelagic, being a specialized predator of shallow water fish. This species also usually lays two eggs, rather than one egg, in crevices or in burrows. Incubation is up to 32 days and is performed by both parents. For the 35 days that the chick remains in the nest, the parents bring food to it, one fish at a time. Such frequent feedings are only possible because the fishes caught are all shallow water species and therefore are captured close to the nest. After 35 days, the chicks walk or flutter to the sea under the cover of the darkness.