Common Guillemot

Common Guillemot

The common guillemot is one of the most abundant seabirds in the temperate and colder parts of the northern hemisphere with very large populations in the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans and the adjacent areas of the Arctic Ocean.

Guillemot are found on small areas of cliffs on the South coast of England, very locally on the coasts and islands of Wales and in a handful of places in the North of England and Northern Ireland. In winter it is widespread around UK coasts but usually well offshore. It is sometimes seen inshore after gales or passing by longer headlands.

Zoo Diet

The guillemots here always have a mixed diet of sprat, herring, mackerel, whitebait and squid. They also regularly get capelin and smelt. They also get sand eels in breeding season. We feed them a big range of food so that if we run out of a source of one species, we know they will happily eat other species as well.

Wild Diet

In the UK, the mainstay of the guillemot diet consists of sandeels, herring and sardines. Successful hunts have been noted at depths of around 100m, and individuals have been found foraging some 5km from the rest of the colony in search of food.


Common guillemots are pursuit divers that use their wings to propel themselves into the ocean. They may spot prey by dipping their head repeatedly into water before diving.


This species nests in densely packed colonies, with up to twenty pairs occupying one square metre at peak season. They will lay their eggs on bare rock ledges, under rocks, or on the ground. They first breed at four to six years old and average lifespan is about 20 years. Their courtship displays include bowing, billing and mutual preening. The male points its head vertically and makes croaking and growling noises to attract the females. The species is monogamous, but pairs may split if breeding is unsuccessful.


Pollution, lack of food, habitat loss and disturbance.


This bird receives general protection under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. Research into the effects of large-scale fishing on species of auks, particularly into the effects of industrial fishing of sand eels, is required. Furthermore, oil pollution and its effects must be minimised.

Common Guillemot Common Guillemot


  • Latin Name: Uria aalge
  • Class: Birds
  • Order: Charadriiformes
  • Family: Alcidae
  • Conservation Status: Least Concern
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