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Rare razorbill seal surfaces at Stump Pass

By Staff | Jan 2, 2013

A rare northern seabird member of the puffin family, the razorbill seal, was sighted last week in Stump Pass.

This is one of only a very few instances when this bird has been sighted in the Gulf of Mexico let alone at Stump Pass State Park, which is a sister to Gasparilla Island State Park.

Late in the day, in poor light and threatening rain, a large flock of pelicans, terns and mergansers were feeding just off the beach near Stump Pass. Beyond was the Holy Grail of Florida birding – not one but two razorbills.

One appeared to be a non-breeding adult and the other a young adult based on bill shape. Breeders have a darker head and a distinct white line in front of the eye.

Why would these birds be in Florida?

This year is unusual in that northern seed-eating birds are being seen far south of their normal range.

Seabirds are also snowbirds. Storms could have thrown them off course or there may be imbalances in the marine food supply that led them to range south.

There have been unusual numbers of normal Gasparilla Island-area seabirds (pelicans, terns, cormorants, mergansers and laughing gulls) feeding immediately off the beaches the past two weeks. An unusual abundance of small fish are available for birds to feed on.

Enjoy a walk at Stump Pass State Park. Now is the time to watch an amazing bird show.