Airtime for Oban’s black guillemots

Oban's famous black guillemots, also known as tysties. Photo: RSPB Images

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Oban waterfront’s famous black guillemots went on air and were watched by millions of TV viewers.

Viewers of BBC’s The One Show were treated to close-ups of the black guillemots, or Tysties as they are sometimes known, that nest in the harbour wall along the Esplanade and in the North Harbour, regularly entertaining passing visitors and residents alike with their nesting antics.

The birds were filmed last year by a TV crew based in Glasgow on one of their first assignments after the start of lockdown.

Some people make a special mission to sit and watch the courtship behaviour of the tysties, which involves the male dancing round the female with head and beak pointing downwards and showing off his bright red feet. The female then reciprocates with a similar crouching dance around him. All the time, they have a high pitched whistling call which is where their old Norse name Tystie probably comes from, meaning whistler.

There were 14 pairs recorded in Oban Harbour in 2021 as part of a seabird census.

RSPB Scotland’s Mull Officer Dave Sexton, who was interviewed on camera, said: ‘Every time I travel to and from Mull and Oban, I look out for these dapper birds. Their bright red lipstick matches their ‘shoes’!

‘They’re such busy, active little characters and really draw the crowds. Oban is unique in having such an easily watchable colony and they can allow people to watch them close-up.’

He added: ‘Like seabirds everywhere they are under threat; for tysties it can be pollutants, food supply and non-native predators such as mink which can destroy nesting attempts, so it makes the need for Marine Protected Areas all the more urgent.’