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BC Conservation Data Centre: Species Summary

Cepphus columba
Pigeon Guillemot

Scientific Name: Cepphus columba Pallas, 1811
English Name: Pigeon Guillemot
Classification / Taxonomy
Scientific Name - Concept Reference: American Ornithologists' Union (AOU). 1998. Check-list of North American birds. Seventh edition. American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C. [as modified by subsequent supplements and corrections published in The Auk]. Also available online:
Classification Level: Species
Species Group: Vertebrate Animal
Species Code: B-PIGU
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Craniata Aves Charadriiformes Alcidae
Conservation Status / Legal Designation
Global Status: G5 (Apr 2016)
Provincial Status: S4 (Mar 2015)
BC List: Yellow
Provincial FRPA list:   
Provincial Wildlife Act:
SARA Schedule:
General Status Canada: 4 - Secure (2005)
Migratory Bird Convention Act: Y
Ecology & Life History
General Description:
Global Reproduction Comments: Breeding begins from mid-May in south to mid-June in north. Clutch size is 1 or (usually) 2. Incubation by both sexes, lasts 30-32 days. Young are tended by both adults, can fly at 29-39 days. Yearlings and most 2-yr-olds do not breed; first breeds generally at 3-4 years on Farallon Islands (Nelson 1991). Nests singly or in loose aggregation or small colony. Tends to retain same mate in successive years.
Global Ecology Comments: High (80%) annual adult survivorship (Nelson 1991).
Migration Characteristics:
(Global / Provincial)
    Local Migrant:
    Distant Migrant:
    Within Borders Migrant:
Y /
Y /
N /
na /
Global Migration Comments: Generally sedentary; probably almost wholly resident at least as far north as British Columbia and Washington, also throughout Gulf of Alaska and Aleutians (Johnsgard 1987). Arrives in breeding sites in central California in early March (Nelson 1987).
(Type / Subtype / Dependence)
Ocean / Kelp Bed / Facultative - occasional use
Ocean / Marine Island / Facultative - frequent use
Ocean / Subtidal Marine / Facultative - frequent use
Other Unique Habitats / Estuary / Facultative - occasional use
Rock/Sparsely Vegetated Rock / Cliff / Facultative - frequent use
Rock/Sparsely Vegetated Rock / Rock/Sparsely Vegetated Rock / Facultative - frequent use
Global Habitat Comments: Nonbreeding: mostly pelagic and along rocky seacoasts (AOU 1983); or, nonpelagic, moving in winter from exposed coast to bays and inlets (Johnsgard 1987). May rest at night in "rafts" offshore prior to breeding season. Nests along coasts or on islands; on cliffs, talus slopes, in rock crevices, caves, among rocks along shores, in abandoned burrows; may dig own burrow, or nest under dock or piers. Often uses same nest site in successive years.
Food Habits: Piscivore: Adult, Immature
Global Food Habits Comments: Diet mainly small fishes (e.g., blennies, sculpins, sand launce, smelt, etc.); generally inshore benthic species; also includes mollusks, crustaceans, and marine worms. Forages underwater. Off southern British Columbia, foraging birds occurred mainly in areas where water depth was 10-20 m (Clowater and Burger 1994).
Global Phenology: Diurnal: Adult, Immature
Provincial Phenology:
(1st half of month/
2nd half of month)
Colonial Breeder: Y
Length(cm)/width(cm)/Weight(g): 34/ / 487
Elevation (m) (min / max): Global: 
Endemic: N
Global Range Comment: BREEDS: northern Alaska south to Aleutians, along coast to southern California; in Eurasia from Chukotski Peninsula south to Kurile Islands. WINTERS: Aleutian Islands south to central California; in Eurasia generally near breeding grounds, casually to Japan.
Authors / Contributors
Global Information Author: Hammerson, G.
Last Updated: Dec 13, 1994
Provincial Information Author:
Last Updated:
References and Related Literature
American Ornithologists' Union (AOU). 1983. Check-list of North American Birds, 6th edition. Allen Press, Inc., Lawrence, Kansas. 877 pp.
Campbell, R.W., N.K. Dawe, I. McTaggart-Cowan, J.M. Cooper, G.W. Kaiser, and M.C.E. McNall. 1990b. The Birds of British Columbia Vol. 2: Nonpasserines: Diurnal Birds of Prey through Woodpeckers. Royal British Columbia Museum, Victoria, BC.
Clowater, J. S., and A. E. Burger. 1994. The diving behaviour of pigeon guillemots (CEPPHUS COLUMBA) off southern Vancouver Island. Can. J. Zool. 72:863-872.
Golovkin, A. N. 1984. Seabirds nesting in the USSR: the status and protection of populations. Pages 473-486 in Croxall et al., eds. Status and conservation of the world's seabirds. ICBP Tech. Pub. No. 2.
Harrison, C. 1978. A Field Guide to the Nests, Eggs and Nestlings of North American Birds. Collins, Cleveland, Ohio.
Johnsgard, P. A. 1987. Diving birds of North America. Univ. Nebraska Press, Lincoln. xii + 292 pp.
Lensink, C. J. 1984. The status and conservation of seabirds in Alaska. Pages 13-27 in Croxall et al., eds. Status and conservation of the world's seabirds. ICBP Tech. Publ. No. 2.
National Geographic Society (NGS). 1983. Field guide to the birds of North America. National Geographic Society, Washington, DC.
Nelson, D. A. 1987. Factors influencing colony attendance by pigeon guillemots on Southeast Farallon Island, California. Condor 89:340-348.
Nelson, D. A. 1991. Demography of the pigeon guillemot on Southeast Farallon Island, California. Condor 93:765-768.
Sealy, S. G., editor. 1990. Auks at sea. Western Foundation of Vertebrate Zoology, Studies in Avian Biology No. 14. vi + 180 pp.
Spendelow, J. A. and S. R. Patton. 1988. National Atlas of Coastal Waterbird Colonies in the Contiguous United States: 1976-1982. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Biological Report 88(5). x + 326 pp.
Terres, J. K. 1980. The Audubon Society encyclopedia of North American birds. Alfred A. Knopf, New York.

Please visit the website Conservation Status Ranks for definitions of the data fields used in this summary report.

Suggested Citation:

B.C. Conservation Data Centre. 1994. Species Summary: Cepphus columba. B.C. Minist. of Environment. Available: (accessed Feb 6, 2023).