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Razorbill

Silhouette AuksAuks
RazorbillAlca torda
  • ORDER: Charadriiformes
  • FAMILY: Alcidae

Basic Description

The striking black-and-white Razorbill nests in cliffside colonies overlooking the ocean, often among murres, fulmars, and kittiwakes. It uses its sharp, hatchet-shaped bill to catch fish underwater, sometimes diving to 330 feet. Chicks leave the nest before they even have flight feathers, jumping from their cliff ledges into the water far below. The male parent follows along, minding the chick in the water until it can forage for itself. In winter, Razorbills gather in large flocks to feed, often fairly near to shore.

More ID Info
image of range map for RazorbillRange map provided by Birds of the WorldExplore Maps

Find This Bird

A “sea stack” full of nesting Razorbills, murres, fulmars, and kittiwakes is a sight to behold. The largest Razorbill colony is in western Iceland; small numbers nest on islands in the Gulf of Maine, where tour boats offer daily excursions to see them. In winter on the Atlantic Coast, Razorbills are sometimes visible from shore, especially in New England. A spotting scope is useful to compare them to Thick-billed and Common Murres. In rare winters when cold currents extend south, Razorbills may reach as far south Florida.

Other Names

  • Alca Común (Spanish)
  • Petit Pingouin (French)
  • Cool Facts

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