A PHOTO A DAY HELPS …… Day 121

GUILLEMOTS and RAZORBILLS today. They are part of the Auk family of seabirds and have an unusual life history.

Unlike gannet chicks, which stay in the nest for about three months, young Guillemots and Razorbills have only about three weeks after hatching on their bare rock cliff ledges before leaping into the sea! As it was the end of July, most of them had therefore already left and gone out to sea, so these photos are from previous visits.

It can be difficult to differentiate between Razorbills and Guillemots. The former have a thicker bill with white lines and are blacker, while Guillemots have slender bills and can even look chocolatey brown instead of black. Razorbills also have a longer white stripe across the end of their wings.

 

The young birds of both species leave their ledges whilst still downy, before their flight feathers have fully grown, and only a third of the adult weight. They leap off the ledges at night, to avoid predators such as gulls, and plummet down, whirring their tiny, undeveloped wings. They often fall onto rocks or into heavy surf but they are well protected by fat and downy feathers and can swim strongly.  They re-unite with their parents who take them further out to sea where they are fed for about three weeks until they can fly and fend for themselves. The young birds will not return to land until two or more years later when they are ready to breed.

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