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Bird Sightings : Hebrides : Razorbill

Hebrides bird sightings - Razorbill with Puffins


Alca torda

Gaelic: Coltraiche, Làmhaidh

Photography © Debbie Bozkurt
Stornoway - Isle of Lewis - Outer Hebrides (Western Isles)
4th July, 2008

"Great find this morning in the harbour, in about 100 yards of each other, Guillemots, Razorbills and a beautiful Northern Diver, the light and sun was so strong it was difficult to get good pictures but I had a go ... Here is a slightly out of focus Razorbill, kept diving and then went altogether before I could get a good picture and then a couple of nice Northern Divers

I tried to get a picture of the Diver with a fish in his mouth, just when I lined one up beautifully look what happened! Not sure who was most surprised about losing his brunch the Diver or me!"


Our Razorbill photographs:

with puffins


  • Razorbill
  • Alca torda
  • Gaelic: Coltraiche, Làmhaidh
  • UK: Migrant/Resident Breeder, Winter Visitor. 164,000 birds (Summer) BTO . See from breeding cliffs & sea-watching points
  • WI: Abundant migrant breeder (10,000+ breeding pairs)
  • Breeding: Large colonies. Laying a single large egg on bare rock or ground. Islands, rocky shores & cliffs on North Atlantic coasts including Scotland. Also East North America. N &W Europe. NW Russia.
  • Winters: Eurasian birds winter in N Atlantic nr breeding grounds. Some head south to western Mediterranean.
  • Habitat: Coastal cliffs, otherwise at sea (pelagic) nr breeding grounds
  • Diet: Forages for food by swimming underwater. Fish, especially sandeels, sprats and herrings, some invertebrates
  • Medium-sized seabird (38-43cm length). Black above, white below. (In winter black face becomes white). Thick black, bill with blunt end. Pointed tail. Birds only come to shore to breed
  • Typical lifespan 13yrs. Max recorded age 14yrs 11mths
  • Listen to a Razorbill (RSPB site)
  • Similar birds Guillemot, Puffin


Both partners of a razorbill pair take turns about in foraging, and caring for the egg or young. Whilst the egg is incubating the non-sitting parent will forage to feed up to 35 miles to to sea, but when the egg hatches they forage much closer - up to 7 miles away.

Razorbills nest in large colonies. They lay a single large egg, the eggs all have different patterns to each other - it is thought that this is to help the parents identify their own egg.


The collective name for razorbills and other auks is a raft, colony, flock of auks.


Razorbill records in the Western Isles

Abundant migrant breeder (10,000+ breeding pairs)
Source: Outer Hebrides Bird Report (2001)

On the chart below the darker the shade of blue the more abundant the Razorbill is during a month or the more likely you are to see it.

























(Source: Outer Hebrides Birds Checklist)


Debbie's online photo album

Other local bird photographs

Sources of information for the bird sightings section

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