Razorbill Breaks Records

July 15, 2008 by  
Filed under Features

It’s been an incredible 41 years since the razorbill chick was born and ringed and now it seems that a British razorbill is completely dominating previous bird age records. The razorbill, known as razorbill M23170, has been crowned the oldest bird of its kind in Britain. It wasn’t a tough decision to make since the average lifespan of a razorbill is just 13 years.

When M23170 was still growing his adult feathers, the Beatles had just released their legendary Sgt Pepper album, hippies were braiding their hair and spouting their “make love not war” slogan and Vietnam was being ravaged by war. It was a time when legends were being made and this little bird must have wanted in on the action. Now, at the grand old age of 41 years, M23170 is the oldest known bird of his kind. In order to survive this long he has had to not only defeat his genetically pre-programmed lifespan but he has also had to avoid dangers such as oil spills and fishing nets. And yet somehow he has managed to conquer all these obstacles and he is still living in the same place where he was born and tagged back in 1967 – Bardsey Island off the coast of north Wales. The bird was spotted on the island during a survey conducted by the British Trust for Ornithology. If it was possible to follow the life story of this incredible creature it would no doubt be an eventful one.

The incredible bird joins a list of ‘extreme’ age records of birds who have far outlived their peers. He shares the list with a 31-year-old curlew (average life expectancy is five years) and a 13-year-old barn owl (average life expectancy is three years). The curlew was doing remarkably well and was still breeding when it was last found. The barn owl was unfortunately found under much less favorable circumstances. The discovery of the razorbill brings to light the importance of ringing birds, since this enables ornithologists to monitor the survival and movement of a particular species. If you find a ringed bird – dead or alive – you should make every effort to contact relative authorities so they can put the data on the bird’s ring to good use.

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