The guillemot (Uria aalge), known as the aak in Orkney, has a dark brown head, neck and upperparts. It has a distinctive white line across closed wings. The bill is black and tapering and legs are dark blue. The guillemot’s eggs are pear shaped to prevent them rolling off cliff ledges. There are around 181,000 adults in Orkney. There are plenty of places to see them but Noup Head in Westray is always good in the summer, as is Marwick Head on the mainland. It gathers fish (sandeels) crossways in its beak, with the heads all pointing to the left or all to the right.
The black guillemot (Cepphus grille) is called the tystie in Orkney. It is smaller than the common guillemot, and can be seen on boulder beaches and low cliffs around the islands. It has smart black and white plumage and red feet and is an auk - related to the puffin and razorbill. It stays local all year round but spends winters at sea within a few miles or so of breeding grounds. The sexes are similar with a summer plumage of jet black and a large oval white patch on upper wing and under wing. In winter the tystie is whiter with a speckled grey and white back. They feed on butterfish.
They can be seen around Orkney’s cliffs, especially Marwick Head, Hobbister and Papa Westray’s north and east shores. The highest number of black guillemot in Britain is in Orkney and Shetland with a population in Orkney of around 5,500 adults. In England there is only one colony in Cumbria of a few pairs and 14 pairs in Wales. They are common in the Arctic and north Atlantic.
The fulmar is known as a mallimack or malli in Orkney dialect. Its common names are the Northern fulmar, fulmar petrel or Arctic fulmar and its proper name is Fulmarus glacialis. Orkney is a paradise ...More
There are about 10,000 razorbill (Alca torda) in Orkney – a member of the auk family locally called the coulter-neb or sometimes the sea crow (sea craa). They are noisy, quarrelsome birds that nest ...More
Everybody’s darling, the puffin, or the tammie norrie as it is affectionately known in Orkney, brings a smile to the face of anyone lucky enough to see it. This small auk is worth seeking out in som...More
This large, bright, attractive bird with black wingtips is known as the solan goose in Orkney. There are 5,000 pairs in Orkney with the largest colony on remote Sule Stack 40 miles west of mainland Or...More
This great pirate of the skies is infamous in Orkney for terrorising anyone who goes near its nest during the breeding season. Always known in Orkney as the bonxie, its dive-bombing tactics around you...More
Lapwing Also known as a teeick in Orkney (and a peewit elsewhere in the country), these are less common than they were, possibly as a result of land drainage, but the breeding population is around ...More
Birds of Prey
Click to Enlarge Click to Enlarge Click to Enlarge Click to Enlarge Click to EnlargeHen-harrier This is Orkney's most common bird of prey, with currently some 80 breeding females. The females outn...More
Shelduck A mainly black and white duck with a conspicuous chestnut breast band; larger than a mallard but smaller than geese such as greylag and Canada. It has a particularly prominent red bill, bl...More