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Home » Learning About » Information and Resources » Wildlife » Seasonal Wildlife » Seabirds » Guillemots and Razorbills

Guillemots and Razorbills

Among the many seabird visitors to Pembrokeshire who come to these shores to breed are two members of the auk family, the guillemot and razorbill. While they can be seen breeding on the offshore islands such as Skomer or Ramsey, it is also possible to get close views of these birds from the mainland. 

Looking rather like penguins, razorbills and guillemots stand upright on cliff ledges. The guillemot is a chocolate brown bird, with a white tummy and a sharp dagger like beak. In contrast, the razorbill is a black bird, again with a white tummy. The razorbill has a white stripe across its beak and eyes, looking almost like a comedy thief’s mask. The beak is stubbier. Both birds nest on cliffs. The guillemots prefer to pack together, standing shoulder to shoulder on narrow ledges, while razorbills prefer clefts in the rock, or flatter wider outcrops. 

Breeding on a narrow edge could be considered a risky business but the egg of the guillemot has evolved to be pointed, so that it will roll in a circle from the point, but not off the cliff edge. Both razorbills and guillemots, like many seabirds, raise a single chick, breeding from May to early July. They are among the first birds to fledge from the cliffs, and are gone before the puffins leave their cliff top burrows. 

Razorbills and guillemots can be seen from the mainland along the Castlemartin coast across to Stackpole. One of the best views is at Stack Rocks, close to the Green Bridge of Wales. This is one of the largest guillemot breeding sites in South Wales. Along the coast at Flimston razorbills and guillemots breed in the sea caves, along with the kittiwake, a small member of the gull family.