Bird Database


(Alca torda)

State of the Birds
At a Glance



Short distance




Climate change, Prey declines, Pollution

Conservation Actions

More data are needed on population trends and magnitudes of threats


(Alca torda)

Other than the locally-nesting Black Guillemot, the Razorbill is the alcid (alcids are puffins and their relatives) most likely to be seen from shore in New Hampshire. This small version of the extinct Great Auk nests in large cliff colonies across the north Atlantic, and like many seabirds was harvested extensively for eggs, meat, and feathers through the 1800s. Populations rebounded during the 19th century, and today the species is increasing slowly along the southern edge of its range in Maine.

Breeding Razorbills from Greenland, Canada, and Maine mostly winter in a relatively small area from Newfoundland to Cape Cod. They were historically rare to the south and west of this region but have increased in the mid-Atlantic states, presumably in conjunction with the growing breeding population. In exceptional cases they also appear well to the south (Florida) or west (Great Lakes), but these records are typically associated with abnormal conditions. For instance, a veritable invasion of Razorbills into south Florida late in 2012 may have been due to unusually warm ocean temperatures in their core range – and cooler ones off the southeastern United States. Because they are a cold-water species, Razorbills found foraging more difficult in the ocean of the Northeast and unprecedented numbers (mostly immatures) ventured far to the south in search of better conditions. With the Gulf of Maine warming more rapidly than most other marine regions, time will tell whether there will be long-term negative effects of climate change on North American Razorbills.

Although Razorbills are relatively common in New Hampshire waters from November to March, they’re not always easy to see. Most are far offshore and best seen from a boat, and those closer to shore can easily be obscured by waves. If you’re lucky, a feeding concentration may occur when currents and upwellings concentrate their preferred prey of small fish. These sometimes occur near the mouth of the Piscataqua River, at which times dozens of Razorbills may be seen from coastal vantage points in Rye and New Castle, with some even venturing as far upriver as Portsmouth Harbor.

Seasonal Abundance

Relative abundance based on eBird data. Numbers indicate likelihood of finding this species in suitable habitat at a given time of year, not actual numbers encountered.

Range Map

Information for the species profiles on this website was compiled from a combination of the sources listed below.

  • The Birds of New Hampshire. By Allan R. Keith and Robert B. Fox. 2013. Memoirs of the Nuttall Ornithological club No. 19.

  • Atlas of the Breeding Birds of New Hampshire. Carol R. Foss, ed. 1994. Arcadia Publishing Company and Audubon Society of New Hampshire

  • Birds of the World. Various authors and dates. Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology.

  • Data from the Breeding Bird Survey

  • Data from the Christmas Bird Count