Razorbill (Alca torda)

Razorbills are recorded annually, mostly from October to April, with peaks of autumn passage in October and November. Birds have been found at all times of the year, although often with only one or two records per month. The vast majority of records come from Hilbre.

During this Atlas, records were submitted from three tetrads. Hilbre (SJ18Z) reported birds in all three winters, with counts of 3, 2 and 16. A count of 45 birds offshore at Hoylake (SJ29A) by Jane Turner in winter 2004/ 05 is one of the largest winter flocks on record in the county. A sickly looking individual was at the edge of the tide at West Kirby (SJ28D) in 2006/ 07.

A century ago Coward (1910) wrote that ‘a few birds may often be seen at sea off the Cheshire coast and in the estuaries’. Bell (1962) said that ‘although recorded in most months it is most frequently seen in the autumn, chiefly in October and always in very small parties, not exceeding a maximum of four birds’. Both writers over-emphasised the occasional storm-driven inland bird, recorded once every twenty years on average. There was no record in the county mapped in the BTO Winter Atlas (1981/82 to 1983/ 84). Compared to those earlier assessments, Razorbills seem to be more commonly seen these days, but it is perhaps because more observers are scanning the sea with telescopes.

The Razorbills found in winter in our area are almost certainly British-bred birds. Immatures from British colonies move south for the winter, travelling a median distance of almost 1000 km from their natal site, with some birds reaching west Africa and others entering the Mediterranean. Adults of breeding age also move south, a median distance of nearly 700 km (Migration Atlas). Those that are seen in winter in Liverpool Bay are thus most likely to be adults from colonies in north-west Scotland.

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