Of the many black and white seabirds, the razorbill might just be the most stylish. In this blog Molly Martin tells us five facts about these chunky auks!

1. Razorbills belong to the same family as puffins and guillemots - the auk family. These monochrome, torpedo-shaped seabirds are designed for speed in the air and water, but tend to be pretty clumsy on land.

2. Like puffins and guillemots, a razorbill’s favourite food is fish. They are incredibly good at diving, using their wings to “fly” underwater. Razorbills normally hunt for fish around 20m below the surface of the sea, but they can dive much deeper

Razorbill floating on the surface of the sea

3. The best time to see razorbills is March to July, when they join other seabirds to breed on cliffs, most commonly in the north of Scotland. These seabird colonies are made up of a number of species, and can be very loud and smelly places, but well worth a visit!

View of a mixed seabird colony of razorbills, guillemots and kittiwakes

4. You can tell a razorbill from the very similar guillemot by the beak. Guillemots have longer and more pointed beaks, whereas the razorbill is much shorter and chunkier. Razorbills also have distinctive white stripes along the bill and from the eye. As their name suggests, their beaks are extremely sharp along the edges, useful for grabbing slippery fish!

Razorbill standing on a rock showing its striking black and white markings

5. The closest relative of razorbills is sadly extinct. The great auk was a large, flightless bird, with a very similar appearance to the razorbill. Without the ability to fly away from hunters, great auks were easy pickings for humans seeking an easy meal.

The last great auk in Scotland was killed on Stac an Armin, St. Kilda, in 1840, where three islanders captured the bird and kept it alive for three days. When the weather deteriorated, they were convinced the auk was responsible, and killed it, believing it to be a witch. As global numbers dwindled, the last few were sadly killed as specimens for collections – and the very last northern hemisphere penguin was killed on Eldey, Iceland between the 2nd and 5th of June, 1844.

 

You can get your very own razorbill pin badge online here, or they can be found in boxes all over Scotland!

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