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Puffin One

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key facts

  • Puffins are skilled divers and can reach depths of up to 60 meters underwater.
  • Puffins are highly sociable birds and a colony can contain up to 2 million birds.
  • They even stick together to form "rafts" on the water's surface.


Unlike penguins, puffins are able to fly

© Noel Reynolds/Flickr

The puffin is a small seabird that is closely related to other puffins, such as the puffin. Four different species of puffins are found in the cooler conditions of the North Atlantic Ocean, the Atlantic puffin, the tufted puffin, the horned puffin and the rhinoceros puffin, and despite its different name and appearance, they are still four One of the puffins exists today. Known for their brightly colored triangular beaks, puffins are the most distinctive of all seabirds, and while they are not considered endangered, puffins are extinct in many areas where they were once found in large numbers. Despite their penguin-like posture and appearance, puffins are excellent flyers and have been known to reach speeds in excess of 50 mph in short bursts.


There are four types of puffins:

  • Atlantic Puffin ( Fratercula arctica ): This species is the only one found in the Atlantic Ocean. Countries where it breeds include Greenland, Iceland, Ireland and Norway.
  • Horned Puffin ( Fratercula corniculata ): This is very similar to the Atlantic Puffin, but it has a tuft of down above each eye. It can be found in Alaska, British Columbia, and Siberia.
  • Tufted or Crested Puffin ( Fratercula cirrhata ): A bold red bill and yellow tufts are the distinguishing features of this species. It can be found in Alaska, British Columbia, and Washington state.
  • Rhinoceros auk ( Cerorhinca monocerata ): Named for the beak-like protrusions it sheds each year, and is noticeable for the white feathers above the eyes and behind the beak. It can be found in Alaska, California and Japan.

anatomy and appearance

Although male and female puffins look alike, the former are larger

© Ronnie Robertson/Flickr

Puffins are smaller birds with thick black and white plumage that help keep them warm in the frigid conditions of the northernmost part of the northern hemisphere. Their necks, backs, and wings are black, their underparts are white, and there are white feathers on the sides of their faces. Their feet and legs are dull yellow during the cold winter months, turning bright orange during the breeding season. The puffin is a bird with a broad, flattened bill that is large and triangular in shape and is known for its bright markings. The red runs along the entire length and across the tip, with a grayer color at the base and yellow markings in the middle, the same as their legs and feet. Puffins' beaks are more brightly colored during the warm breeding season and darken during the colder winter months when they shed. Although males and females are nearly identical in appearance, males tend to be slightly larger than females, making it easier to identify when the two sexes appear together.


Scientific evidence suggests that the Pacific Ocean likely originated during the Paleocene epoch, between 56 and 66 million years ago. According to fossil evidence, about 15 million years ago in the Miocene, the Fraterculini tribe to which the puffin belongs already existed in this area.

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Once the prehistoric puffins (the larger biological family of puffins) spread into the Atlantic, the two classes (i.e., the Pacific and the newly colonized Atlantic) developed separately from each other.

Distribution and Habitat

Most of the puffin's natural range is shrinking

© Dick Daniels/Creative Commons

Puffins are birds that inhabit oceans and coastal regions of the Northern Hemisphere, most commonly found in parts of the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic Circles. The exact location of the puffin depends largely on the species that the Atlantic puffin inhabits along the entire North Atlantic coastline, from Denmark in the east to Canada in the west, and from northern Norway all the way to the Canary Islands and Spain. The South Pacific rather than the North Pacific . However, tufted and horned puffins do not exist in the North Atlantic, but can be found in large colonies in the North Pacific, from the west coast of Canada to Japan and possibly Korea, although their status there is unclear. Although populations have remained stable in many areas, puffins are now outside their once vast natural ranges and are constantly threatened by increasing levels of human activity on land and at sea, where they are particularly vulnerable to environmental catastrophe. Threats such as oil spills.

Behavior and Lifestyle

Puffins are sociable and stick together on land and sea

© Aconcagua/Creative Commons

Like other species of puffins (and, indeed, many other seabirds), puffins are highly social animals, living on grassy cliff-tops in sprawling colonies of up to 2 million individuals. However, they are not only known to stick together on land as they do when foraging at sea, puffins have been known to form "rafts" to ensure that they can better protect themselves from numerous predators as they Safety technology figures are used. In addition to being fast and efficient in the air, puffins are incredibly skilful and agile swimmers who have been known to dive to depths of 60 meters for up to two minutes at a time (although the average dive usually only lasts about 20 seconds), taking maximum Maximize your chances of catching plenty of fish for yourself and your offspring. During the winter months, puffins spend most of their time hunting at sea, sometimes miles from land, before returning to the cliffs to breed in the warmer months, making it difficult for scientists to fully understand the status of the species .

Reproduction and Life Cycle

Ground Nesting Birds: Atlantic Puffins
Puffin chicks are cared for by both parents and mate for life


Puffins have an annual breeding season that lasts throughout the warm summer months from April to mid-to-late August, where they spend their lives in large groups on the soft, grassy cliff tops. By using their shovel-like beaks and webbed feet with sharp claws to dig up unwanted soil, they are able to dig burrows in the ground more than a meter deep and several meters long to keep their precious life alive. Safe from the eggs or young of predators such as seagulls. Puffins mate for life, with the female laying a single white egg that is co-incubated by both parents until it hatches in a burrow six weeks later, covered in medium brown feathers. The chick is cared for and fed by both parents, who use their beaks to bring back fish from the sea, until it becomes independent, leaving the nest at about two months old. Puffins are able to reproduce themselves between the ages of four and five and can live up to 20 years in the wild, although older puffins are not unheard of, with some living into their 30s.

diet and prey

what puffins eat
The diet of puffins is mainly fish

© AZ-Animals.com

Although puffins are technically omnivorous, their diet is entirely carnivorous, consisting mainly of small fish supplemented by zooplankton during the leaner winter months. Puffins prey primarily on sand eels, capelin, herring and sprats, and occasionally squid, molluscs or crustaceans, and they spend an average of about 20 seconds on a dive just below the surface. Their uniquely shaped beaks are also perfect for carrying fish, thanks to the spines on the upper part of their beaks and on their tongues. By carefully catching small fish lining the entire length of the beak from head to tail, puffins are able to go on to catch more without losing any catch they've already stored, often collecting as many as 30 fish before returning to land to feed their hunger chick.

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Predators and Threats

Albatross Vs Seagull - Albatross
Seagulls and other large birds prey on puffins

©Vladimir Strnad/Shutterstock.com

Despite their relatively small size, puffins have fewer native terrestrial predators than expected because they nest on high cliff tops and in burrows more than 3 feet underground. However, they still need to keep an eye out for gulls, hawks, hawks and foxes, which are the most common land predators of puffins and their young. In areas close to human habitation, puffins also fall prey to domestic cats and dogs, and mice often target their valuable eggs hidden in underground burrows. At sea, puffins are preyed upon by large birds such as skuas and greater gulls, which compete for the same food that puffins hunt. However, the greatest threat to puffins today is the impact of humans and their increasing activities on their natural habitat. Coastal development, tourism, oil spills, and the introduction of non-native predators into its natural habitat have led to dramatic population declines across its historically vast natural range.

Interesting Facts and Features

Puffins vs Penguins - Puffins Eat
Thanks to their special beaks, puffins are able to transport large numbers of fish from the sea to their nests

©Rudmer Zwerver/Shutterstock.com

Puffins are excellent swimmers, but are also very fast in the air and are able to launch quickly from land or water when needed. Puffins are so fast, they are able to fly at speeds of up to 55 mph (88 km/h) for short periods of time, beating their tiny wings as many as 300 to 400 times per minute. Puffins and rows of small fish are often seen running the length of their brightly colored triangular beaks, especially during the breeding season when they catch fish to feed their young. For such a small bird, frequent trips to breeding grounds up to 10 kilometers away can be a tiring process, so they usually collect as many fish as possible at one time. While they have been known to typically bring back 4 to 30 small fish, such as sand eels, one fish has been recorded with 62 stuffed in its mouth.

relationship with humans

Humans not only hunt puffins extensively for eggs and meat, but also affect their natural habitat

© Bragi Thor/Flickr

Since humans have inhabited the northernmost regions of the world, they have hunted puffins for their meat and eggs, providing people with an easy source of protein during the hot summer months when the birds nest on land. With more and more residents, the population began to decline dramatically, leading to the extinction of many puffin colonies throughout the northern hemisphere. Humans have also played a major role in disturbing their natural habitat with increased coastal development and overtourism, leaving less space and more disturbance for these tiny birds. Another key issue is that the impact of fishing has resulted in severe reductions in the puffin's natural prey species, which, combined with increased ocean activity and, even more destructive, oil spills, has led to the complete disappearance of puffins from many areas where they were once found in abundance.

Protect the status quo and life today

Today, all four puffin species are considered to be of least concern for near-future extinction from their native environments, as their numbers remain relatively high and they remain widespread throughout the The Northern Hemisphere occupies a large area, although they are especially threatened by pollution. Oil spills from large tankers are among the most dangerous pollutants for puffins, as they can easily become trapped in the thick oil and become covered, making them unable to fly or swim. The widespread hunting of puffins for their meat and eggs in the 1800s and 1900s led to a dramatic decline in the world's puffin populations and even wiped out some puffin habitats entirely. However, puffins have been better protected in the 21st and later 20th centuries, and conservation efforts are underway, especially in North America, to help save remaining puffin populations.

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similar animals

  • Penguins: Their black backs and wings, and white breasts make them appear to be wearing evening dresses and white shirts. But there's more to these intelligent, highly social and aquatic birds. You can read all about them here.
  • Seagull: This hardy and clever forager will be found anywhere fish can be found—even the Arctic. Read all about this resilient bird that drinks both fresh and salt water.
  • Albatross: It is a seasonal star in parts of the world and thousands of fans flock to watch it every year. Learn about the fascination of this bird, named for its impressive diving abilities.

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about the author

I love good books and the occasional cartoon. I am also fascinated by the beauty of nature and find hummingbirds, puppies and marine wildlife some of the most amazing of all creatures.

Puffin FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Puffin vs Penguin

Penguins and puffins are similar in appearance, but the two birds are quite different. First off, puffins can fly while penguins cannot. Also, puffins live in the northern hemisphere, while penguins mainly live in the southern hemisphere.

Are puffins herbivores, carnivores, or omnivores?

Puffins are carnivores, which means they eat other animals.

To which kingdom do puffins belong?

Puffins belong to the animal kingdom.

Which class do puffins belong to?

Puffins belong to the class Aves.

What phylum do puffins belong to?

Puffins belong to the phylum Chordate.

What family do puffins belong to?

Puffins belong to the puffin family.

What order do puffins belong to?

Puffins belong to the order Charadriiformes.

What type of mulch do puffins have?

Puffins are covered with feathers.

What genus do puffins belong to?

Puffins belong to the genus Fratercula.

Where do puffins live?

Puffins live in the northern hemisphere.

What type of habitat do puffins live in?

Puffins live in oceans and coastal areas.

What are the natural enemies of puffins?

Predators of puffins include gulls, skuas, and foxes.

How many eggs do puffins lay in total?

Puffins usually lay 1 egg.

What are some interesting facts about puffins?

Puffins can stay in the water for up to 2 minutes!

What is the puffin's scientific name?

The puffin's scientific name is Fratercula arctica.

What is the lifespan of a puffin?

Puffins can live 15 to 30 years.

What is the name of the little puffin?

Small puffins are called chicks.

How many kinds of puffins are there?

There are 4 species of puffins.

What is the biggest threat to puffins?

The biggest threats to puffins are hunting and pollution.

What is the wingspan of a puffin?

Puffins have a wingspan of 47 cm to 63 cm (18.5 in to 24.8 in).

What is another name for puffin?

Puffins are also known as Atlantic puffins, tufted puffins, horned puffins or rhinoceros puffins.

How fast are puffins?

Puffins can travel as fast as 55 miles per hour.

How do puffins have babies?

Puffins lay eggs.

How to say Puffin in…


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  1. David Burnie, Dorling Kindersley (2011) Animals, The Definitive Visual Guide to the World's Wildlife
  2. Tom Jackson, Lorenz Books (2007) Encyclopedia of World Animals
  3. David Burney, Kingfisher (2011) The Animal Encyclopedia of Kingfishers
  4. Richard Mackay, University of California Press (2009) Atlas of Threatened Species
  5. David Burnie, Dorling Kindersley (2008) Illustrated Animal Encyclopedia
  6. Dorling Kindersley (2006) Dorling Kindersley Animal Encyclopedia
  7. Christopher Perrins, Oxford University Press (2009) Encyclopedia of Birds
  8. Atlantic Puffin information, available here: http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/106003321/0
  9. Tufted Puffin information, available here: http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/106003323/0
  10. Horned Puffin information, available here: http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/106003322/0
  11. Puffin Facts, available here: http://projectpuffin.audubon.org/puffin-faqs