Gull Island is three miles by boat from Homer on the south side of Kachemak Bay on the Kenai Peninsula. It is the summer home to 5,000 to 8,000 nesting common murres.
We took a cruise with Mako's Water Taxi out to and around the island and common murres were very abundant. They are also known as the common guillemot and thin-billed murre. Outside of the breeding season, they spend most of their time at sea.
|Common murres nesting on Gull Island with a few black-tailed kittiwakes and cormorants thrown in.|
|Those not nesting were offshore swimming and diving.|
They breed in high density colonies and do not build nests. A group is known as a "bazaar" or "fragrance." They lay an egg on bare rock and may be so close together that they are touching other nesting birds right next to them. After they breed they moult and become flightless for up to two months. During breeding, when we saw them, they are black to brown on the entire head, back and wings with white underparts. After molting, the lower face turns white. They commonly dive for their food, using their wings for propulsion. They can stay underwater up to two minutes.
|A solitary bird floating.|
|A solitary bird on the rock.|
|A solitary bird in some of the relatively sparse grass and foliage on the island.|
|They have black beaks and brown eyes and secondary flight feathers that are tipped white, forming a narrow white wing-bar on closed wings.|
|I like how two of them have their beaks sticking straight up in the air.|
There are five subspecies. We happened to see the Uria aalge inornat, the largest subspecies, which is in the Northern Pacific from Japan, Korea and Russia to Western Alaska and Northwest British Columbia.
|These are all brown, but many pictures I've seen show them as dark black.|