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© Copyright: Images: Jari Peltomäki. Recording: Jan-Erik Bruun. All rights reserved.

Razorbill

Alca torda

  • Family: Auks – Alcidae
  • Appearance: A largish, black and white clumsy-looking seabird. Reminiscent of Guillemots, but beak shorter, higher and blunt-ended.
  • Size: Length 38–43 cm (15–17 in), wingspan 60–69 cm (23.5–27 in), weight 600–840 g (24–34.5 oz).
  • Nest: Eggs laid in hollows on rocky ground, sometimes with plants, small stones, bone fragments etc as nest material.
  • Breeding: Single egg laid May–June, incubated by both parents for 34–39 days. Young fed at nest for 16–19 days, and also subsequently for long periods away from nest until able to fly and find food themselves.
  • Distribution: Breeds in colonies on rocky islands in outer archipelago. Largest colonies in Finnish waters may have as many as 1,000 pairs. Total Finnish breeding population estimated at 7,000–12,000 pairs.
  • Migration: Flies south from August or later in autumn, returning April–June after wintering in the Southern Baltic.
  • Diet: Mainly fish (sticklebacks, sand-eels, herrings). Can bring as many as 7–8 fish at once back to young, carried crosswise in beak.
  • Calls: Low rattling, not unlike the croaking of frogs.
  • Endangerment: Least concern, protected in Finland. European red list status (also globally) Near threatened.

Razorbills are seabirds with deep black upperparts and bright white underparts. Their high, vertically flattened beaks have a white vertical stripe. Many individuals also have a white stripe extending from above the base of their bills to their eyes. Their dark wings have a very thin white stripe behind their secondary feathers. Their underwings are patterned dark and light, but with fewer dark markings than Guillemots. Their axillaries are white, and their flanks often lack any dark streaks. In winter plumage they have dark caps, but white cheeks and throat, with no thin dark stripe curving down behind their eyes (compare to Guillemot). Young Razorbills resemble Guillemots in winter plumage, but are more distinctively dark and white, with dull dark brown backs. Razorbills have black legs and beaks, and dark brown irises. Young birds’ beaks are not so thick vertically, and lack the white stripes that cross adults’ beaks.

Other species from the same family

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