Saturday, 9 July 2016

Bird of the week - Razorbill

Razorbills spend most of their lives at sea but visit land in the spring to raise their young.  These photos were taken on the cliffs at Dunstanburgh Castle.

The razorbill has a curious layer of feathers under the leading edge of its wings.  I presume this is an adaptation to underwater swimming rather than flight.

I couldn't see many chicks from the top of the cliff.  This one was closely guarded by its parents.

Thomas Bewick wrote about the razor-bill (Alca torda) in A History of British Birds, vol II, published in 1832.  In his day there was no digital photography so, if you wanted a closer look at a bird, you had to shoot it.

Razorbill eggs were a valuable food source at that time although guillemot eggs were more frequently taken.

Eggs of razorbills and other birds were still being collected from the cliffs 100 years ago.

You can watch a film made before the First World War of "climmers" on the cliffs at Flamborough Head on the Yorkshire Film Archive here.  Razorbills and their eggs are still hunted and harvested in Iceland.

Razorbills are found on northern and western coasts of the British Isles and of Europe.

Razorbills make a curious groaning or growling noise which you can hear here.  Listen to the BBC Radio 4 Tweet of the Day on razorbills here.

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