• Name: Razorbill | Alca torda
  • Size: 63-67cm wingspan
  • Life span: 13 years
  • Diet: Razorbill feed mainly on small fish, especially sand lance/eels, also herring, sprat, capelin, stickleback, cod.  Razorbill will also eats crustaceans and marine worms.
  • Reproduction: Razorbill are a monogamous species, choosing one partner for life. Females lay one egg per year; nesting along coastal cliffs in enclosed or slightly exposed crevices. The parents spend equal amounts of time incubating, and once the chick has hatched, they take turns foraging for their young.
  • When to see: Spring and Summer (April to July)
  • Where to see:  Razorbills can be found around the coast of the UK all year round, but are easier to see when they return to their breeding sites from April to July i.e. Western Rocks | Norrard Rocks | Eastern Isles in Scilly.  
  • Conservation status: ICUN Redlist | Near Threatened. Birds of Conservation Concern 4 | Amber (UK)
  • Population Trend: Decreasing
  • Threats:  Human activity (i.e. disturbance), pollution, climate change (changes in weather patterns, changing sea temperatures), decreases in food sources. 
  • Fun Fact: A pair of Razorbill will mate up to 80 times a day over a 30-day period to ensure fertilisation. 

Description: The Razorbill is a medium-sized Auk that nests on ledges and among rocks at the bottom of cliffs.

Razorbills have black heads, chins, and throats. They have a white line from the top of their bills to their eyes. Their large bills are black, eyes are brown, and legs and webbed feet are dark grey.

Out of breeding plumage (as described above) Razorbill have white throats, cheeks, and ear coverts and there is no white line on the face.

The similar-looking Guillemot is chocolate-brown in colour, and has a longer and thinner bill.

Razorbills lay one egg directly on the rock. Both male and female incubate the egg in turns of 12-24 hours for 35-37 days; both parents feed and care for it until it fledges. Much like the Puffin the male Razorbill accompanies the chick to the sea at 17-23 days.

The Razorbill is the most prolific and largest of the three Auks (the family that Razorbill, Guillemots and Puffins belong to) found here in Scilly.

Want to know more?  Check out our latest Seabird Monitoring & Research Technical Report for the most up to date information about how this smart looking species is fairing in Scilly.


Do remember that we rely on donations to continue our work.  If you have searched, found and learned about Scilly's wildlife on our website, please Support Us and give what you can.  Thank you 💚

Support Us


With thanks to Joe Pender for the Razorbill image