Razorbills - Hebridean Birds
Western Isles Birds - Razorbills, medium sized seabirds, black plumage above and really white below.

The razorbills have a really chunky thick black / dark grey blunt beak with a white band around it.

The majority of breeding colonies can be seen around Scotland and The Western Isles from March to July.
Pheasant -  Western Isles Bird Sightings
Bird Overview - Razorbills
Latin name
Alca torda

Amber Status

Similar Species


Razorbills, medium sized seabirds, black plumage above and really white below. The razorbills have a really chunky thick black / dark grey blunt beak with a white band around it.. The legs are black and grey. Outside of he breeding season the throat and sides of the head are white.

The male and female razorbills look very similar, except usually the males are slightly larger. Young birds look similar but have a more pointed bill with no white band.

A thin white line also extends from the eyes to the end of the bill. Also the wing lengths slightly differ, the wing length of adult males ranges from 201 –216 mm (7.9–8.5 in) while that of females ranges from 201 to 213 mm (7.9 to 8.4 in)

These birds are very agile, usually only coming in to land to breed. The razorbills do look somewhat like the guillemots, except that they have the chunky bill and also they they have a habit of holding their pointed tails upwards.

505 to 890 g (17.8 to 31 oz) 37-39cm (31032cm excluding the tail). The razorbills have a wing span if 63 - 69cm.
These large raptors prefer mountainous, often treeless, habitats, although they require large trees or rock faces for nesting.

Fish, especially sand eels, sprats and herrings, some invertebrates. The prey is caught mainly by surface diving, before they dive they dip their heads into the water, sometimes several times. This is as they are looking for the prey whilst swimming around. The razorbills may catch several fish in one dive, which if they are feeding young, they will hold crosswise in the bill.
Most common calls of the adults are a quiet, tremulous snore and a prolonged growl. The juveniles have a plaintive whistle.


This agile bird - the razorbill has just the one partner for life, The female razorbills lay one egg per year. The Razorbills nest along coastal cliffs in enclosed or slightly exposed crevices, but rarely on open ledges.

They sometimes use the puffin burrows

Incubation is 32 - 39 days and they fledge between 14 - 24 days.

The parents spend equal amounts of time incubating. Once the chick has hatched, the parents take turns foraging for their young and sometimes fly long distances before finding prey.

The young often fledge in the late evening between 9 and 12, the chick jumps off the nesting ledge and with whirring wings descends and the parent enters the water a short while afterwards if the chick is submerged. They often surface together, but if they don't then the chick calls to the parent and then they both swim out to sea, in silence, the chick slightly behind the parent.

Misc. Info

The average life span is about 14 years, however there was a bird ringed in the Uk that lived to 41 years, it was ringed in 1967 - a real rarity.

These birds dive with an obvious flick of the feet and quarter opened wings. Underwater the razorbills swim with half-opened wings

Click the Pictures Below for Larger Photos
©2014 Virtual Hebrides
Website Design and Hosting by Western Isles Web Services Ltd, Isle of Lewis Western Isles - Outer Hebrides
This image can be purchased for £5.
If 3 or more images are purchased the price will be reduced to £4 per image. Eg. 3 images would cost only £12, a saving of £3. We place no restriction on the use of images purchased, they can be used on websites or printed media without further cost.

Once you have purchased your image(s) you will be sent an email with a link to where you can download the image(s). Your image(s) will be available for download for up 3 month after the date of purchase


   Image Size:

  Pixels Inches Centimetres
  Inches and cm sizes are approximate