Pigeon Guillemot

This week's visit to the Kukutali Preserve, brought another "first sighting" for me.  Just offshore of the Flagstaff Island beach, I spotted this pair of Pigeon Guillemots (Cepphus columba) in their elegant breeding plumage.  At first I saw just a single bird (above), then realized there was a second nearby.  They are year-around residents of the Salish Sea.

Pigeon Guillemots are birds of inshore waters around rock shores.  According to Seattle Audubon, they nest in rock caves or crevices or under driftwood.  Given these preferences, this pair could well be nesting somewhere here in the Preserve.  Pairs may join small colonies or nest singly.  These are diving birds that use their wings to propel themselves underwater.  Their diet includes fish, mollusks and crustaceans.

These are not ducks.  Guillemots are grouped in the family Alcidae, which includes puffins, auks and murres.  This black and white plumage is typical of the group.  Once in a while, I caught sight of their bright red legs when they came above the surface.

This pair did not flee when I came into view, which is usually the case.  Instead, they seemed content to bob on the surface of the water, and occasionally, stretch their wings.