Saturday, June 12, 2010

A Bird out of Prehistory

One of my favourite seabirds is the Razorbill. Not as well known, or photographed, as the Puffin the Razorbill is a magnificant bird especially when seen at close quarters. Unlike the Puffin, which nests in burrows, the Razorbill lays its single egg on a precarious cliff ledge and it is here that the young chick is raised.

Down here in the Strait of Gibraltar I see more Razorbills than Puffins in the winter. That is because these birds feed in shallower water than the Puffins and so they will fish in sheltered bays and coasts on the European coast. The Puffin feeds in deeper water and the North African coast is better suited to them. It is in March and April that I see tens of thousand of both species exiting the Mediterranean on their way back to the breeding grounds. Razorbills generally pass ahead of Puffins. But I never get to see these birds close-up in the splendour of their breeding plumage.
On the Farnes Razorbills are much less abundant than Puffins. Fewer than 200 pairs breed on the two islands that we visited but it was a real treat to see them so well.
Razorbills mix with other auks, especially the larger Guillemots, in offshore rafts in search of fish.
This bird reminds me of a sadly extinct auk, the Great Auk, which reached these shores during the Pleistocene and was hunted to extinction globally with the last ones killed as recently as the 19th Century.
Today, I'm going to ask followers of this blog to have a close look at this bird. I wonder how many of you may find that the elegance of this bird surpasses the colours and comical look of the popular Puffin. Take a close look and compare with the Puffins of the post of 8th June. Do give your opinion!


  1. They are beautiful Clive!!! They may not have all those nice coloured faces of the puffins, but they indeed are graceful, with those white stripes discretly drawing their beaks and wings. Thank you letting us know a little bit more about this less known species Clive. Sandra Sentieiro

  2. Thanks Sandra, that's one more with Razorbills! Any more?

  3. I'm with you Clive. I'm surprised there is a shot of a Razorbills bright yellow gape in the collection there. The blog is superb by the way.

  4. Thanks Bryan. Yes missed the gape, sorry! So one more Razorbill supporter! How are your birds doing? Have the eagles had young?

  5. We have a Golden Eagle with youngster showing well and the local pair of WT Eagles managed to get two youngsters over six weeks old and then one of them fell out of the nest! Apart from that, all is well:-)