Friday 9 August 2013


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Shetland has many spectacular seabird colonies such as Sumburgh, Noss, Hermaness, Eashaness, Foula and Fair Isle. Within the many species found breeding at these colonies, the Guillemot (Longwi , Loom )as it is know in Shetland, is one of the most common.

Taking a boat trip around Noss is a great way to get close to Gullimots and other seabirds and many birds can also be seen at close quarters in Lerwick harbour feeding.

Colonies are found either in thousands or just a few pairs, nesting low down in Geos or as in Hermaness on high cliffs. The noise and smell coming from these colonies is memorable as is the sight of the packed birds. Birds lay one egg onto the ledge, no nest material is gathered.

Numbers have been dropping, like all seabirds, due to lack of food , in particular sand eels. According to the Shetland bird Club which monitors breeding success, sand eels formed around 98% of fish brought to chicks. Adult birds are often away from the colony trying to find food, leaving young birds unattended for long periods leaving the way for predation by Gt Skua, Gt Black Back and Herring Gulls. In storms many young and nests are washed away, with Sumburgh head birds particularly affected in several years.

When the young leave their nest , they dive into the sea and are escorted by adult birds eastwards to the Norwegian coast. Birds start to return to inland waters around October and can be sometimes found feeding in Sheltered voes throughout the winter. Mortality can be high in some years and beach surveys have revealed as many as 1,500 dead birds, as in 1994. In oil related incidents many Guillemots are found dead, in unrelated incidents between December 1978 - April 1979 over 8,000 were found oiled

The number of the bridled form among breeding colonies is between 19% - 29.6% .


During our visit in 1989, we were very fortunate to come across a Brunnich's Guillemot, at that time only the 3rd living bird found in UK waters. Again it was located on the cliffs at Sumburgh head by members of the Shetland Bird Club who were undertaking breeding bird surveys. This one found by Martin Heubeck is the only British record in a breeding seabird colony. The nearest breeding colony to Shetland can be found in Iceland, where there is an estimated 2 million pairs.

Next we look at the Black Guillemot
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