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Puffin Fact

Puffins are small seabirds that spend most of their lives out at sea.

They have a stocky build and a brightly colored beak and beat their wings rapidly to fly underwater.

Puffins have an outrageous orange beak that helps them assess potential mates. They are great flyers, too, flapping their wings 400 times a minute and going up to 88km an hour.

Puffin Facts for Kids

  • They are Nicknamed “sea parrots.”
  • In the wild, they live for around 20 years
  • They spend most of their lives at sea
  • Puffins are carnivores 
  • They flap their wings 400 times per minute
  • During mating season, puffins have bright orange bills.

Types of Puffins

There are 3 species of puffins breeds. They live in large colonies on coastal cliffs or offshore islands.

All puffin species have predominantly black or black and white plumage, a stocky build, and a large beak.

Atlantic puffin

The Atlantic puffin is a species of seabird that breeds in a number of countries and is rated as vulnerable by the IUCN. It feeds on small fish that it catches by diving underwater, using its wings for propulsion.

They are a large seabird with a large beak, short wings, a thick-set neck, and a broad, black collar around the neck and throat. The wingspan is 47 to 63 cm (19 to 25 in), and the bird stands about 20 cm (8 in) high.

This puffin has a black crown, pale grey cheek patches, a black beak, orange legs, and black feet. It molts while at sea in the winter, and the bright-colored facial characteristics are lost.

Facts for Kids x
Facts for Kids

In late spring, the Atlantic puffin returns to coastal areas to nest in cliff-top colonies. After 6 weeks, the chick is fully-fledged and swims away to sea.

The Atlantic puffin eats mainly fish, though it may also eat shrimp, mollusks, and polychaete worms in coastal waters. It can reach considerable depths and stay submerged for a minute and can catch several small fish in one dive.

Tufted puffin

The puffin is mostly black with a white facial patch, and their bill is mostly red with some yellow and occasionally green markings. The birds get yellow feet and white faces in the summer.

The wings are relatively short, thick, and dark, adapted for fast and aerobically strenuous wing-beat cadences.

Tufted puffins breed in breeding colonies in coastal regions from British Columbia to Kamchatka, the Kuril Islands, and throughout the Sea of Okhotsk. They can nest as far south as the Channel Islands.

They nest in steep cliffs near productive waters and spend the winter at sea.

They feed on a variety of fish and invertebrates, which they catch by diving from the surface. They consume invertebrates primarily when they are young and can store large quantities in their bills.

Tufted puffins are preyed upon by snowy owls, bald eagles, peregrine falcons, Arctic foxes and are at risk of death on St. Paul Island, Alaska, due to changing ecosystems.

Horned Puffin

The horned puffin is a bird found in the North Pacific Ocean, with the exception of a “horn” of black skin located above the eye.

A male and female horned puffin has a black horn extending upwards from the eye and a yellow wattle at the base of the bill.

The horned puffin’s bill is red at the tip and yellow at the base, and its fluorescent properties help attract a mate. Its bill has a bright yellow color when in breeding plumage and a dull gray color when it is in eclipse plumage.

Usually feeding on fish and small invertebrates, horned puffins, dive down to about 30 meters (98 ft) to catch their prey and don’t take the time to readjust their prey within their beaks.

What do Puffins Eat

Sandlance, sprat, capelin, herring, hake, sand eel, and cod are their favorite foods. Foraging takes place in shallow waters not far from the breeding colony during the breeding season.

They can carry 10 fish in their beaks per dive, thanks to a tongue that ends in a coarse section and a spiky patch in the bird’s mouth.

Webbed Feet

Their webbed feet and waterproof feathers allow them to travel 60 meters underwater.

Puffins live in rock crevices and dig burrows with their webbed feet also.

How Long do Puffins Live

Puffins can live up to 20 years. One puffin lived to be 36 years old. 

It is difficult for researchers to determine the maximum age of puffins because they nest among boulders and spend most of their time in the open ocean, which causes leg bands that are used to track them to corrode over time.

How do Puffins Find Their Way Home?

Puffins leave their nests to travel to the sea and return home, using the stars, the earth’s magnetic field, sounds, smells, and visual cues of the ocean to help them locate their nests.

Breeding

In spring and summer, thousands of puffins gather on the coasts and islands of the North Atlantic Ocean to breed. They dig a burrow for their family, lay eggs, and take turns incubating the eggs.

When a puffling is born, both parents take turns incubating the egg and caring for the puffling until it is fully-fledged.

Preditors 

Puffins live around 20 years and are threatened by great black-backed gulls, Herring gulls, and other predators.

The Great Black-backed Gull is the greatest natural predator of the puffin and catches adult puffins in mid-air.

What Effect Have Humans Had on Puffin Numbers?

Humans have taken many harmful effects on puffins in the past. Today, there are many threats to puffins, such as over-fishing and over-hunting for food and feathers.

Locals in Norway, Iceland, and the Faroe Islands hunt puffins for food. The hunters use a 4-meter long lacrosse pole to catch the birds in flight.

Oil from tankers and drilling operations can make puffins sick and can cause them to die.

They are also threatened by pollution, particularly oil spills.