Is That A Penguin Swimming In Boston Harbor?

A penguin spotted in Boston Harbor turned out to be a razorbill and not a penguin.

Only in Boston posted a short clip on TikTok asking, “Is that a penguin swimming in Boston Harbor?” The short answer is no. Although it does resemble a penguin when seen from a distance. See for yourself in the video below.


Is this a #penguin floating in #Boston Harbor or am I dreaming?

♬ original sound – Only In Boston

The longer answer might be disappointing to some, but the bird seen swimming in Boston Harbor is a razorbill. Ornithologists might point out that this is a non-breeding adult, which is identified by the slight white patches around its head and neck. Breeding adult birds have black plumage around their head with a white chest and a more striking definition between the coloration.

Image shows a non-breeding adult razorbill (left) next to a breeding adult (right). The birds, when swimming, might be confused with penguins.
Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Razorbills are a northern sea bird with an average size comparable to a common crow. They make their communal homes in coastal regions, islands, and rocky areas. Their typical migration path brings them down into the New England states during winter months. It is quite common for them to appear in Boston Harbor. On rare occasions, the birds may venture as far south as Virginia and even Cape Hatteras in North Carolina. The razorbill below was swimming off the NC coast in Feb 2023.

Image shows a razorbill swimming off the Cape Hatteras coast during winter migration.
Image from Instagram.

The razorbill is also known as the razor-billed auk. The birds are avid fishers who often stalk schools over the open ocean. They are able to swim down 5 to 20 feet, where they catch most of their food, and can catch more than one fish per dive. They are also little thieves and may steal fish from other auks or puffins.

Image shows a razorbill diving for fish.
Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Both males and females assist with feeding young birds during the nestling period of 14 to 25 days. Young birds leave the nest before they can fly, hanging out with their parents on the cliff faces and swimming. Razorbills don’t mate until they reach four to five years of age. They live communally in colonies. It is not certain, but the birds might mate for life.

We hope you have enjoyed learning about the “penguin” in Boston Harbor that wasn’t a penguin. Penguins do sometimes appear in unlikely locations, but sadly, this wasn’t that occasion. Razorbills are amazing birds. You can learn more about them at All About Birds and view some amazing photographs. If you know someone interested in birds, please share this with them.

You can find the source of this story’s featured image here and here.

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