Thursday 23rd June comments: It is some upbringing. Guillemots return to the Isle of May in April and soon settle on ledges laying just a single egg. Unlike many other birds they’ll not build a nest and (rather like Penguins) will tuck their single egg under their feet to incubate for up to 30 days.
Once the chick hatches, the parents will feed the chick with sprats before it reaches 20 days of age then something remarkable happens. Once the parents consider the chick ‘jump’ worthy, it’s time for the chick to leave the cliffs and join dad out at sea.
The male will call the chick down, regardless of height of the cliff and the chick has no other option but to jump. Due to the young nature of the chick, their bones have not fully developed and therefore can take big impacts (for example if they hit rocks on the way down). But sure enough, the chick will eventually make the water and meet up with father and that’s the end of the Guillemot season on the May (we’ve already had our first jumplings this year).
The male will take the chick out to the relative safety of the open sea (sometimes 60 miles out) and will feed and look after it over the following few months. Gradually the chick will grow flight feathers and eventually become independent and that is the job done for the parents. It’s a very interesting breeding strategy but one which is successful and will be repeated across all seabird colonies around the UK. So next time you see one, say hello to the jumpers