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HomeSpits­ber­gen infor­ma­ti­onWild­life → Brünich’s guil­l­emot

Brünich’s guillemot (Uria lomvia)

The Brünnich’s guil­l­emot looks like a fly­ing Adé­lie pen­gu­in. It is one of the most com­mon sea­bird spe­ci­es on Spits­ber­gen and occu­p­ies 142 colo­nies on the archi­pe­la­go.

Brünich’s guillemot

The Brünich’s guil­l­emot can dive to a depth bet­ween 50 and 200 met­res.Bjørnøya (Bear Island).

Descrip­ti­on: The Brünnich’s guil­l­emot have a black back and head and white bel­ly. They are 41 cm tall and weigh 700-1,200 g. The high-arc­tic Brünich’s guil­l­emot is very simi­lar to its clo­se sub-arc­tic rela­ti­ve, the Com­mon guil­l­emot, which makes the­se two dif­fi­cult to distin­gu­ish. The Brünich’s guil­l­emot has a shorter, thi­c­ker beak with a white stri­pe from the root almost to the tip on the lower edge of the upper man­di­ble.

Distribution/Migrations: Brünich’s guil­l­emots are wide­ly spread throug­hout the high Arc­tic. They appear in smal­ler num­bers in nor­t­hern Nor­way, with more sub­stan­ti­al colo­nies in nor­t­hern Ice­land, Green­land and Jan May­en and in very lar­ge num­bers in Sval­bard and Franz Josef Land. The popu­la­ti­on in Sval­bard is esti­ma­ted at around 850,000 bree­ding pairs, the lar­gest colo­nies being in Hin­lo­pen Strait (Alkef­jel­let), on the sou­the­as­tern coast of Spits­ber­gen (Koval­skif­jel­la, Stel­ling­fjel­let), on Hopen and on Bjørnøya, but the­re are small and medi­um-sized colo­nies ever­y­whe­re in the archi­pe­la­go. Brünich’s guil­l­emots from Sval­bard win­ter in the open sea around Ice­land, sou­thern Green­land and New­found­land. Some colo­nies make the impres­si­on of being quite sta­ble, but at 9 key obser­va­ti­on sites on Bjørnøya and in Spits­ber­gen, num­bers have gone down by as much as 4 % annu­al­ly bet­ween 1987 and 2010, which was the reason for inclu­ding the Brünich’s guil­l­emot on the Nor­we­gi­an Red List in the cate­go­ry “near threa­ten­ed” in 2010.

Bio­lo­gy: Brünich’s guil­l­emots nest on steep rock cliffs on nar­row led­ges, out of reach of Arc­tic foxes and Polar bears. Upon arri­val of the birds in April or May, the nes­t­ing places are still inac­ces­si­ble becau­se of ice and snow. The fema­le will lay one pear-shaped egg in late May or ear­ly June. Both par­ents sit for 32 days and feed the chick for three weeks until it has to jump down from the cliff, like young Com­mon guil­l­emots (see abo­ve).

Brünich’s guil­l­emots feed most­ly on fish and crustace­ans.

Mis­cel­la­neous: Brünich’s guil­l­emots bree­ding in Spits­ber­gen may end up in a coo­king pot in Green­land or New­found­land. Despi­te pres­su­re from hun­ting in the win­tering are­as, they do not seem to mind human visi­tors too much near their bree­ding place, if you move careful­ly and quiet­ly. Gua­no-pro­of clot­hing is gene­ral­ly recom­men­ded near birdcliffs!

The Brünich’s guil­l­emot was not affec­ted by the 1987 popu­la­ti­on col­lap­se of the Com­mon guil­l­emot becau­se of its more varied diet.



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last modification: 2018-09-04 · copyright: Rolf Stange