The Razorbill Invasion – My Personal Experience

Razorbill, Photo courtesy of  Ardnamurchan Charters Ltd

Razorbill, Photo courtesy of Ardnamurchan Charters Ltd

There were a number of Razorbill sightings in Pinellas County in late 2012 and early 2013, and I, of course wanted to see one of these beautiful birds.  Razorbills, birds which resemble penguins but fly, began arriving in Florida in early December, 2012.  Soon, it was apparent the state was experiencing a Razorbill Invasion.  These birds are large auks of the northern Atlantic Ocean. “Normally,” they can be found offshore in winter as far south as New Jersey, and occasionally Virginia or S. Carolina.  Here in Florida, now as I write this toward the end of February, 2013, reports of Razorbills appear to be few and far between.  Once the phenomenon was labeled, the descriptive phrase caught on. The Razorbill Invasion of 2012-2013 is an occurrence that birdwatchers and others from not only Florida but around the world noticed.  It would have happened if the numbers had been significantly less since Razorbill sightings in Florida are quite the anomaly. There have been perhaps a dozen documented sightings in Florida prior to 2012.

In the process of researching for this article, I discovered, unsurprisingly, report after report about the Razorbill Invasion on the Internet.  Many were from Florida’s newspapers.  Many others were written by bloggers.  It’s safe to say the Razorbill Invasion was one of the most interesting invasions of the decade.  For more detailed information, I would recommend eBird and plugging Razorbill Invasion into a search engine.  Being a birder, loving Penguins and their appearance, living on the west coast of Central Florida, and suspecting seeing a Razorbill could very well be a once in a lifetime opportunity for me, I wanted to see a Razorbill or two. Correction – I somewhat desperately wanted to see even one Razorbill.

In the interest of full disclosure, I do not work for nor am affiliated with or related to anyone at he following internet sites.  I follow, a second to none website about birds in Pinellas County, Florida.  It shares up to date information about sightings. I also read Brdbrain, a ListServ comprised of incomparable, up to date, often to the hour, sightings. I found some places where the Razorbills had been sighted on more than one occasion and where specific instructions on how to get there were given. I checked off my original one of a kind prior to leaving on my birding treks. Camera. Batteries. Water. Cell phone. Wallet and a minimum of cash, and I was pretty much ready to go.  Whenever possible, ie, when such factors such as light, distance and the bird itself cooperate, I prefer to have take my own photos out in the field. Sans my documentation, here is an excellent photo from I was unable to find out the photographer’s name.

Razorbill, photo from

Razorbill, photo from

Have I sighted a Razorbill? No. Am I disappointed? Yes. Since I started birdwatching here in Florida in the late spring of 2010, the date of which coincides with where I began birdwatching anywhere, I have seen, observed and learned about a number of wonderful, beautiful birds. It has been and will continue to be a very fulfilling hobby on many levels. Tonight, I want to leave you with these thoughts about my very satisfying hobby, “Have I sighted a Razorbill? No. Am I disappointed? Yes.”   -SLB



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