Introducing the Razorbill

Saturday 9th January comments: We started a new mini-series looking at the Isle of May seabirds and today we focus on the second family member of the Auk family;

meet the Razorbill…


The species is a member of the Auk family and has a very similar breeding biology to its close relative the Guillemot. It is black and white (unlike the cholate brown and white of a Guillemot) with a distinctive white stripe across its face and a broad laterally compressed bill which gives the species its English name. Both sexes are identical in plumage although males can be slightly larger. Like most seabirds, they are designed for a pelagic lifestyle, only ever coming ashore for the breeding season.

Breeding Biology

Birds return to the cliff ledges in late winter before eventually settling in mid-April. Like Guillemots, birds don’t build a nest structure but lay a single egg and incubate on their feet. Parents can pair bond for life and the oldest Razorbill has reached the ripe old age of 51 years.

Incubation is carried out by both parents for between 34-39 days and following the chick hatching, the youngster will jump of the cliffs after three weeks and follow the parent out to sea. Razorbills are good swimmers and feed on fish but are known (seen annually on the Isle of May) to Kleptoparasitise; a method of stealing prey from other birds especially Puffins. The breeding season is usual compete by late July and birds will head out into the north Sea for the autumn and winter before returning the following spring.

Tomorrow we will reveal how well the Razorbill population is doing on the Isle of May with the results and the trends. So keep checking the blog for more info! 

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