Alca torda


The razorbill is a medium-sized auk which nests on ledges and amongst the rocks around the bottom of cliffs. They feed on fish which they catch by diving from the surface and swimming underwater. Usually searching for fish in the upper 20 metres or so, razorbills can dive very deep and have even been spotted by a submersible operating hundreds of feet down. Only coming to shore to breed on land razorbills stand upright just like other auks.

How to identify

The razorbill is black above and white below, with a shorter, thicker bill than a guillemot. The bill has a distinguishing white line across the end. Guillemots nest on the narrow ledges on cliffs, while razorbills nest lower down where it gets rockier. In the winter, razorbills have white faces.

Where to find it

Nests on coastal cliffs. Can be seen around most of our coasts during migration.


When to find it

  • April
  • May
  • June
  • July
  • August
  • September

How can people help

Razorbills are threatened by fish shortages, habitat loss and pollution. The Wildlife Trusts are working with fishermen, researchers, politicians and local people towards a vision of 'Living Seas' where marine wildlife thrives. This work has recently had a massive boost with the passing of the Marine Bill, promising sustainable development of the UK's marine environment. Do your bit for our Living Seas by supporting your local Wildlife Trust.

Species information

Common name
Latin name
Alca torda
Gulls and seabirds
Length: 39-43cm Wingspan: 66cm Weight: 710g Average Lifespan: 13 years
Conservation status
Classified in the UK as an Amber List species under the Birds of Conservation Concern review.