WatchList Species Account for Razorbill (Alca torda)

Qualifies for the list as a Declining Yellow List Species



Photo: Gerald and Buff Corsi

North American populations of Razorbill represent only 7% of its total numbers; the greatest proportion, close to two-thirds, nests in Iceland.


Conditions for the Razorbill seem to be favorable in North America; there are moratoriums on many fisheries, a lack of industry interest in forage fish that make up this bird's diet, and a reduction of bycatch of Razorbills due to closing the coastal net fishery for Atlantic salmon in Quebec.


Oil spills represent a serious threat to Razorbill populations; 14% of the birds killed in the Argo Merchant oil spill off Nantucket Island in 1976 were Razorbills. Entanglement in fishing gear and gill nets can also kill significant numbers of Razorbills. Development, recreation, timber harvesting, aquaculture, and disturbance on seabird nesting islands can also impact this species.


Oil pollution from a major spill near concentrations of the Razorbill could be disastrous. Illegal harvesting of these birds has been a problem in the past, but heightened enforcement and education have improved the situation.