Black Guillemot

Cepphus grylle


Black guillemots are small auks that breed among rocks at the base of cliffs, on lower slopes or on rocky islands; they tend to be seen in small numbers. Black guillemots eat fish and crustaceans: diving from the surface of the water, they swim underwater to catch their prey. Carrying their catch in their bill, it is possible to tell if a bird is left- or right-'handed' by the way the fish point.

How to identify

Unmistakeable: in the summer, black guillemots are black all over with a large white oval patch on each wing. In the winter they turn white with black barring on their backs and black wings. They have bright red legs and a red gape.

Where to find it

Nests on cliffs and rocky islands at scattered locations around the coast of Scotland, the Isle of Man and a handful of sites in England and Wales.


When to find it

  • January
  • February
  • March
  • April
  • May
  • June
  • July
  • August
  • September
  • October
  • November
  • December

How can people help

The survival of seabirds like the black guillemot is threatened by the pollution, overexploitation and degradation of our marine and coastal habitats. The Wildlife Trusts are working with fishermen, researchers, politicians and local people towards a vision of 'Living Seas' where marine wildlife thrives. This work has recently had a massive boost with the passing of the Marine Bill, promising sustainable development of the UK's marine environment. Do your bit for our Living Seas by supporting your local Wildlife Trust.

Species information

Common name
Black Guillemot
Latin name
Cepphus grylle
Gulls and seabirds
Length: 30-32cm Wingspan: 55cm Weight: 420g Average Lifespan: 11 years
Conservation status
Classified in the UK as an Amber List species under the Birds of Conservation Concern review.