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Razorbill (Alca torda)


Razor­bill (Fugløya, Nor­way).

Descrip­ti­on: The Razor­bill is very simi­lar to the Brünich’s guil­l­emot and Com­mon guil­l­emot, but the black part of the plu­mage is even dar­ker. The main distinc­ti­ve fea­ture is the strong, squa­re-shaped beak with a simp­le pat­tern of white stripes. The sexes look the same.


Razor­bill (front) and Com­mon guill­l­emot, Ice­land.
The dar­ker plu­mage and the stron­ger beak are visi­ble.

Dis­tri­bu­ti­on / Migra­ti­ons: Razor­bills are sub­arc­tic auks rather than high arc­tic birds. In Sval­bard, they occur in small num­bers only on the west coast, a few bree­ding pairs have been recor­ded in Kross­fjord and in Bell­sund at Mid­ter­hu­ken. The lar­gest bree­ding popu­la­ti­on in Sval­bard is on Bjørnøya. As far as known, the­se birds win­ter at sea clo­se to the coast of sou­thern Nor­way.

Bio­lo­gy: The bree­ding beha­viour is very simi­lar to that of the Razorbill’s clo­se rela­ti­ve, the Com­mon guil­l­emot. One egg is laid in May on a small rock ledge on steep cliffs, safe from the arc­tic fox, one of their main pre­da­tors. After the bree­ding peri­od of 35 days, it takes ano­ther 3 weeks until the chick is lar­ge enough to lea­ve the nest. This is the time when both par­ents will moult, so the who­le fami­ly is flight­less for a while.

Mis­cel­la­neous: In Sval­bard, the Razor­bill is so rare that it is actual­ly almost a curiou­si­ty.



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last modification: 2019-05-28 · copyright: Rolf Stange