Wildlife In Focus | Razorbill

David Coultham

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This article covers everything you need to know about the Razorbill (Alca torda) including conservation status, diet, habitat, behaviors, stats, predators, and where you might spot them in the U.K.

The Razorbill is a seabird in the Auk family with a rather unique black and white plumage during the breeding season. They have white breasts, black bodies, and wing feathers; with a striking white stripe running from their eyes to their bills. In the winter they are much more difficult to identify and often confused with the Guillimot.

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Video | Everything You Need To Know About The Razorbill

Conservation Status

The Razorbill is classified as Near Threatened by the IUCN2. Although, the U.K. has listed them as an Amber species. The reason for the difference among U.K. scientists is that there are concerns about low breeding productivity due to sea temperature rises, and the associated fall in food.

Conservation Status

Conservation Status


Razorbill’s preferred food is sand eel, sprats, and herrings. They can dive deep under the sea using their wings and body to propel themselves in search of their prey.


A high proportion of the worldwide population of Razorbills breed in the U.K. and Ireland. They nest on cliff sites.

Note that this map is for a rough illustration of animal distribution across the UK1, whereby light green indicates established populations.


The Razorbill breeds in colonies alongside other seabirds such as Guillemots and Puffins.

Razorbill Call:

Stanislas Wroza xeno-canto.org

Razorbills spend a large portion of the winter months at sea, although even in winter, they can be spotted perching on cliffs around the British Isles. It is during the summer breeding months that their numbers increase. They have a single brood each year and is typically a single egg, which has a pointed shape to prevent it from rolling off the cliff. The parents often use the same nest site year after year! The male and female take turns to incubate the egg which hatches after 35 days. Both parents feed the chick for a further 17-23 days before it fledges. During the early stages of adulthood, the male accompanies the fledgling in search of food.

Razorbills live for 14 years on average, however, the oldest recorded bird was 41 years!


It is estimated that there are 165’000 pairs of Razorbills in the U.K.1 However, this was based on estimates from 2015, and that populations seem to have increased steadily year on year.

According to measured data3 adults weigh up to 705g with a wing length of 205mm. Razorbills reach breeding maturity at 3-5 years and pair for life.


Razorbills have several predators including great black-backed gulls, peregrine falcons, ravens, crows, and jackdaws. In the Arctic regions, they are also preyed upon by polar bears and arctic foxes.


You can spot them at any time of the year on suitable cliff faces around the U.K.. They are best seen in the breeding season due to their distinctive summer plumage. Some RSPB sites you may be interested in are Troup Head, Fowlsheugh, St Bees Head, Dunnet Head, Rathlin Island


  1. Population data based on BTO assessment
  2. Conservation Status based on IUCN assessment
  3. Featherbase

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