Gulf of Maine Razorbill Tracking


Dataset credit

Data provider
Greater Shearwaters in the Gulf of Maine
Originating data center
Satellite Tracking and Analysis Tool (STAT)


Primary contact Linda Welch Greater Shearwaters in the Gulf of Maine
Data entry Michael Coyne



Razorbills (Alca torda) are a stalky, crow-sized seabird which reside in arctic and subarctic marine waters from Maine to Northern Russia. As a member of the Auk family they are closely related to puffins, guillemots and murres. Razorbills prefer the open ocean, only coming ashore during the breeding season to lay one egg in a rock burrow or crevice. The male razorbill will escort the chick to sea 18-20 days after it hatches, remaining together for up to two months. Razorbills feed primarily on herring and hake and may dive more than 100 meters to catch these prey items.

Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge and its partners have worked for the past 30 years to manage and restore seabird colonies along the coast of Maine. The Refuge currently supports 90% of the Atlantic puffins and 85% of the razorbills breeding in the United States. While we have extensive data on size, species composition, and distribution of breeding colonies, very little data has been collected regarding the movements away from the colony. The small number of breeding colonies and the limited geographic distribution of the managed colonies increases the need to maintain suitable foraging habitat within commuting range of the breeding colonies. Adult razorbills must find enough food to feed themselves and their growing chick. The location of foraging habitat is highly dynamic, and may vary depending on water temperature, current, or forage fish availability.

The Gulf of Maine supports a tremendous diversity of pelagic seabirds that rely on these cold, productive waters during a portion of their annual life cycle. For species such as Atlantic puffin and razorbills, the Gulf of Maine represents the southern limit of their breeding distribution in the United States. As with any species at the fringe of their distribution, these birds are likely to be highly sensitive to changes in habitat and prey availability resulting from global climate change. Managers are concerned that increasing sea surface temperatures, changes in commercial harvest rates of key forage species, and potential offshore energy development could now threaten the ability of this region to support pelagic seabirds.
During the winter of 2012-2013, razorbills were documented hundreds of kilometers south of their normal range. In addition, hundreds of dead razorbills, puffins and murres washed ashore on beaches from Florida to Maine. The reasons for these mortality events and range shift are unknown. The data provided by this satellite tagging effort will provide the first insights into the daily and seasonal movement patterns of this species of conservation concern.

1) Document foraging behavior and the location of foraging habitat for chick-rearing razorbills
2.) Document movement patterns of parent/chick pairs following departure from the breeding colony

3) Determine migration pathways, habitat use, and wintering areas for razorbills in the North Atlantic

4) Document characteristics of marine habitat occupied by razorbills, and predict how environmental change (i.e. climate change or offshore development) may influence the availability of these habitats

This information will play a critical role in the evaluation of offshore energy development for both conservation agencies and potential developers. While the conservation community is clearly supportive of green energy, we believe it is imperative that wildlife conservation must be considered during the planning and development of these projects. This research will help us guide the energy development into regions of the coast that are less likely to support large concentrations of pelagic seabirds.

Four razorbills in this study were named for lighthouse keepers and US Coast Guard staff formerly stationed on Matinicus Rock (location where we tagged the birds). The fifth bird (Anthony) is named for our favorite soldier, who is overseas serving his country. For more information please contact:



Supplemental information

Visit STAT's project page for additional information.




This section explains attributes included in the original dataset. OBIS-SEAMAP restricts the attributes available to the public to date/time, lat/lon and species names/counts only. Should you need other attributes described here, you are encouraged to contact the data provider.

Attributes described below represent those in the original dataset provided by the provider.
Only minimum required attributes are visible and downloadable online. Other attributes may be obtained upon provider's permission.

Attributes in dataset

Attribute (table column)Description
prognumProgram number
tag_idPTT ID
lcLocation class
iqQuality indicator
dir1Dir 1
nb_mesNumber of messages received
big_nb_mesdefinition not provided
best_levelBest signal strength in dB
pass_durationPass duration in seconds
nopcNumber Of Plausibility Checks successful (from 0-4)
calcul_freqCalculated frequency
altitudeAltitude used for location calculation
speciesSpecies name
project_idSTAT Project ID
lc_filterParameters to location filtering
speed_filterParameters to speed filtering
distance_filterParameters to distance filtering
topo_filterParameters to topo filtering
time_filterParameters to time filtering
angle_filterParameters to angle filtering
life_stageLife stage of the animal
genderGender of the animal
wetdryWet or dry
wetdry_filterParameters to Wet or dry filterint
obs_datetimeDate and time (local time zone)
timezone_hTime difference from UTC
Marine mammals0
Sea turtles0
Rays and sharks0
Other species0
Non spatial0
Non species0
Date, Begin2015-07-06
Date, End2015-10-29
Temporal prec.111111
Latitude43.64 - 45.28
Longitude-69.28 - -65.25
Coord. prec.3 decimal digits
Data typeTelemetry location
TracklinesYES (ID: 991)
Traveled (km)7,744
Travel hours8,033
Contr. throughSatellite Tracking and Analysis Tool
Sharing policy Permission required
Shared with SWOT
GBIF (via DOI)*
* Aggregated summary
See metadata in static HTML
See metadata in FGDC XML
See download history / statistics