Family Auks (Alcidae)

Least Concern

Black Guillemot (Cepphus grylle)


French: Guillemot à miroir German: Gryllteiste Spanish: Arao aliblanco

Alca Grylle


, 1758,

Baltic Sea


Phylogenetic analyses suggest present species is basal to its two congeners, but evolutionary relationships among races unresolved (perhaps due to incomplete lineage sorting)#R. Much geographical variation throughout range, with racial limits uncertain. Other proposed races are ultimus (Melville Peninsula, in N Canada) and tajani (E Wrangel I), both included in mandtii; and atlantis (S Sweden), in arcticus. Five subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • C. g. mandtii (M. H. C. Lichtenstein, 1822) – Arctic E North America S to Labrador and N Newfoundland, W & E Greenland, Jan Mayen and Svalbard E through E Siberia to N Alaska.
  • C. g. arcticus (C. L. Brehm, 1824) – North America (S of mandtii) and S Greenland to British Is, Norway, SW Sweden, Denmark, Murmansk and White Sea.
  • C. g. islandicus Hørring, 1937 – Iceland.
  • C. g. faeroeensis C. L. Brehm, 1831 – Faeroes.
  • C. g. grylle (Linnaeus, 1758) – Baltic Sea.
  • Winters near breeding area except where water frozen over; casual S to Long I and New Jersey and to N France.

    Descriptive notes

    30–33 cm; 450–550 g; wingspan 52–58 cm. Slender, pointed black bill with red mouth-lining; plumage entirely black, except for white upperwing patch and... read more


    Quite vocal during breeding season. Commonly heard is a high-, more or less even-pitched, drawn-out... read more


    Exclusively marine, rarely in brackish water, along rocky sea cliffs and shores. Breeds in all... read more

    Food and feeding

    Known to catch a high diversity of benthic fish and invertebrates, found on or near sea floor in shallow water. Most of the diet includes... read more


    Median laying usually between late May and mid-Jun, sometimes earlier (N Norway) or later (Spitsbergen, Franz Josef Land, Novaya Zemlya)... read more


    Resident and mostly sedentary except in N regions, where movement to adjacent ice-free waters... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). The global population is not known with any precision but there was a conservative estimate in 1985 of 270,000 pairs (200,000–... read more

    Recommended citation

    Nettleship, D.N., Boesman, P. & Garcia, E.F.J. (2020). Black Guillemot (Cepphus grylle). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 27 February 2020).