Razorbills v Guillemots

Well that is it, Bex and I have finished our cliff counting for the season. No more clambering around cliff tops totally immersed in the cliff birds lives and counting and counting. P1110522 P1110633  The counting of the guillemots and razorbills can be especially challenging but after a while you start to spot and differentiate between even little bits of them.

Obviously when you see them singly in the open they are easily distuiguished

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Sometimes they line themselves up along a ledge making it easier to count them.

P1110665But sometimes it becomes a bit more challenging when they are en mass on the broader ledges. How many heads are there? Are they tangling up on purpose?

P1110635And then sometimes you can only see bits of a bird. They all have to be counted so you have to get good at telling razorbill bits from guillemot bits.  Here is a few pointers:

Guillemots have short tails, razorbill have longer pointed ones.


The tail end of a razorbill.


Guillemots have short tails, probably because they pack in so tightly on ledges and a long one would get in the way.

Guillemots are a browner, chocolate colour, razorbills are a blacker brown.

Guillemots to the left, razorbills to the right.

Guillemots to the left, razorbills to the right.

The white line on the trailing edge of the wing can be a give away, the guillemot has a shorter, broader line, the razorbill has a longer, thinner line.


A bit of a guillemot


A bit of a razorbill with a finer white line.

The bill is easier to tell apart. The guillemot has a sharp pointy one, the razorbill a vertically broader bill.

P1110626So here is a bit of a test to see if you could make a seabird counter. Below are 3 pictures of bits of guillemots and razorbills, can you tell which is which? Answers below.

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1. – razorbill,

2. – guillemot,

3. razorbill (left) and a guillemot (right).


How did you do?




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