- ORDER: Charadriiformes
- FAMILY: Alcidae
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
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.
- Alca Común (Spanish)
- Petit Pingouin (French)
- Cool Facts
- When Razorbill chicks leave the nest, at about 20 days of age, it’s a leap of faith. They don’t yet have fully developed wing feathers, so they jump—often hundreds of feet—to the sea below, fluttering their wings to slow their descent.
- At one Razorbill colony, male and female Razorbills consistently brought back different prey species for their chicks, which suggests a degree of specialization between the sexes.
- Newfoundland hunters called Razorbills “tinkers,” the local pronunciation of “thinkers.” They were given this name because during courtship displays, males hold their bills vertically, appearing to contemplate the heavens.
- The oldest known Razorbill was at least 41 years old It was banded as a nestling on Bardsey Island in the United Kingdom in 1968, and was resighted while breeding in 2009.