Pigmots. That is what we call them. We the folks that have come to know them on a personal level. They are curious little upright wanderers who enjoy having animated conversations with one another. You will know them by their brilliant orange feet and portly little bellies. If the Pigeon Guillemot had a slogan it would be: "Shallow diving champion: body by blennies." (Conversely if I had a slogan it would be: "Brain by science, body by cake." But that's neither here nor there.) Blennies are among the pigmot's favorite foods. Other favorites include: coming as close to my boat as possible while still maintaining the guise that they aren't checking up on me; pooping on the dock; opening their bills at one another as both a sign of aggression and a romantic gesture; pooping on the dock; steadfastly battling the gulls; and pooping on my boat.
Mostly I just want to show you photos of these birds because they're what we ornithologists like to call "adorable." But let me also give you the basic breakdown of what this little bird is, and does.
- Their range includes the entire US Pacific coast up through Alaska and across, west to Russia
- They prefer to breed and nest near shallow water using tiny caves and crevices as burrows for their young
- They eat a lot of fish but they also eat a diverse array of other things including: molluscs, shrimp, and crabs
- They don't dive very deep but they do dive for up to 2.5 minutes at a time
- They generally lay 2 eggs, once a year
- Both mom and dad sit on eggs and warm up and feed nestlings but don't become parents until around 4 years old
- Their winter range is widely unknown. Where do they go when they're finished raising chicks? We don't know. Out to sea somewhere.
Pigeon Guillemots are one of my two study species. If you're wondering what I'm talking about, read more about my master's project here: Grad School Updates, Protection Island. The gist: I study bird vocalizations in seabird chicks, specifically alcids.
Let's have a look at the fishing triumphs of several Pigeon Guillemot parents and hopefully get some help identifying these fish species (please).
What are those green fishes? Good question. I was hoping you could tell me. I'm not an ichthyologist. ---UPDATE: Some lovely person in the comments consulted their aquarist friend and it turns out, the green fish are Penpoint Gunnels. I looked into it myself and it checks out. Thanks!--- The connection you have undoubtedly found between the color of the pigmot's feet and the color of the blennies is no accident. Just as flamingos turn pink from eating algae and crustaceans that are high in carotenoids, so too do the guillemots' feet and gape (mouth) turn red-orange from eating the blennies. Blennies are also high in carotenoids and honestly, if you ate carrots 24/7 (also high in carotenoids, hence the name), you too would take on an orange-ish tint. No kidding.
Have a look at one of the curious little cherubs in action below. Take note of their high-pitch song-like call in the background. There are at least 4 species of birds calling in this video. See if you can hear that many or better yet, identify one or two.
I'll sign off with these two photos of my babies, minutes after they had fledged their burrows. I would love to show you newly hatched baby photos in the future. Currently those photos are part of an appendix in a manuscript I'm trying to get published so I will share them once they become published (cross your fingers for me). See you Wednesday!