Alca torda

Range & Status

North Atlantic species; in Britain and Ireland 90,000 breeding pairs (chiefly in the north), 20% of world population.

Regional Distribution

Cornwall: breeds at scattered sites along north and west coast and on south coast east to Nare Head. Some 7-800 birds counted at breeding sites in 1985-87 survey, indicating little change since 1967-70 survey (Smaldon, 1986 and 1988), although numbers in west Cornwall seem to have declined. 537 birds counted on ledges in 2000 survey. Isles of Scilly: some 342 pairs scattered through the islands in 2006. Our populations are amongst the most southerly in the world.

Habitat & Ecology

Breeds in scattered colonies amongst boulders and in crevices on islets and cliffs. Very difficult to assess actual number of pairs as nest sites are mostly hidden. Remains at sea between breeding seasons.


Marine pollution, inshore fishing (monofilament nets), and food shortages.


Monitoring of breeding numbers. Listed (long list) as a globally threatened/declining species (BSGR, 1995).