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Is There a Penguin in Boston Harbor? Here’s the Real Explanation

A widely shared video shows what almost appears to be a penguin swimming in Boston Harbor. The video caught a lot of attention after the post appeared on platforms like Instagram and Reddit. However, if you weed through the Boston jokes, you’ll see a rational answer.

Here’s the video: 

The post has thousands of likes with hundreds of comments.

The video shows a small penguin-like bird swimming through the water. Commenters suggest it’s a lost or escaped penguin from the aquarium, but a few were able to figure it out. It’s what’s called a razorbill.

people mistook a razorbill for a penguin in boston
A razorbill. (Source: Chris J Walker)

Outdoors.com asked the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries & Wildlife to review the video, and they had an ornithologist review the clip. They had this to say:

“It is not a penguin but appears to be a razorbill, a type of seabird. While it is uncommon to see a razorbill this close to shore, they nest in large colonies on coastal cliffs off the coast of Atlantic Canada, and small numbers nest on islands in Maine. Their winter range includes the ocean off the coast of Massachusetts. Occasionally in the winter, they are observed as far south as southern Florida.”

razorbills map
These are areas that razorbills call home in North America. (Source: National Audubon Society)

Penguins, of course, are only found in the southern hemisphere. Razorbills are mostly found only in the north Atlantic. According to the National Audubon Society, the birds can occasionally appear as far south as Virginia but are very rare. Overall, it’s uncommon to see the razorbills as they prefer being well offshore.

“Not surprising that some people assumed it was a penguin since not many people are familiar with the alcids, the group of birds that the Razorbills belong to,” say officials with the Massachusetts Audubon. “Alcids are very similar in shape and coloring, but unlike penguins they have the ability to fly.”

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