A high-pitched whistling call led me to this seabird floating just offshore of Bodega Head today:
Pigeon Guillemot (Cepphus columba)
Pigeon Guillemots are primarily seen in the Bodega Head area from late spring through fall. They forage near shore at depths of 10 to 30 meters, and a few pairs nest in cavities on the outer cliffs.
They're known for their black plumage with white oval wing patch. Also distinctive is the bright red lining to the mouth and the red legs and feet (see below).
Photo taken on the South Jetty in 2007.
The large webbed feet are used for both propulsion and steering while diving.
Photo taken on the outer coast in 2009.
On the West Coast, Pigeon Guillemots range from Alaska to California. One of the largest breeding concentrations occurs at the Farallon Islands, with over 2,000 pairs (Ewins, 1993).
In an unusual migration pattern, birds nesting in California fly north for the winter, as far as British Columbia.
Welcome back, guillemots!