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Razorbill (

With its shuffling walk, big bill and creaky calls, the razorbill cuts a slightly eccentric figure on the sea-cliffs and coastal boulder piles where it breeds.

What to look for

Razorbills - like puffins and guillemots - are auks. They have chunky bodies and small wings, both great for diving, but less efficient for flying. Adult plumage is jet black above, white below. Razorbills often breed on small ledges that are only large enough for one pair (unlike guillemots, which throng larger ledges). But some of the largest colonies are in huge piles of boulders beneath coastal cliffs.

Interesting facts

Although they usually search for small fish in the upper 20 metres or so of water, razorbills can also dive very deep. Some have been seen by divers working at the base of North Sea oilrigs and by the crew of a submersible operating hundreds of feet down.

When and where to see

Razorbills are ashore between late March and late July. Chicks leave nest sites in July (before they can fly) accompanied by their fathers. Largest colonies are in West Sutherland, Caithness, Orkney and Shetland.


Isle of May, Fowlsheugh and Fair Isle for accessible viewing.

For more information see the RSPB's razorbill page.