The Puffin - what you might not have known about them.
Puffins can be from any of three auk species (also known as
alcids) from the genus Fratercula. Fratercula in Latin means
little brother and may be in reference to their black and
white feathers, which some say look like monastic robes.
They have a brightly colored beak during breeding season
that is very apparent against their plumage.
Puffins are common on cold coastlands from Iceland to
Ireland, the United Kingdom and nearby coasts, but they are
also found on the Atlantic coast and the northern Pacific
coast of North America. Puffins were and are hunted by
humans for food and for their attractive feathers. Still,
there are an estimated fourteen million puffins from Maine
The Puffin has a stocky body covered with thick, waterproof
feathers, and has a short tail. While in the air they beat
their small wings up to four hundred times per minute,
swiftly flying low over the ocean's surface. They have black
upper parts and brownish gray or white under parts. They
have a black head cap and a face that is mainly colored
white. The feet and legs are a bright orange red.
The Puffin lives on the open ocean or seas and feeds
primarily by diving into the water after food. They come
ashore only to breed in large colonies in cavities on
coastal cliffs or on offshore islands among crevices, rocks
or in burrows in the soil. When Puffins are at sea they are
silent but when they are at home among their colony they are
loud and vocal. If you are near a colony of the Puffins that
nest on sea rocks where their voices echo, the noise of the
colony may sound as loud as a chain saw.
Puffins feed by diving and swimming rapidly underwater using
their wings and catch small fish, crustaceans and mollusks.
They normally swallow their catch immediately, but when they
are feeding young they can carry up to thirty small fish at
once, crosswise in their bills.
All Puffins have large beaks and after breeding season they
shed the colorful outer parts of the bill leaving a smaller
dull beak in its place. There short wings make it possible
for them to swim underwater just as though they are flying
Puffins often mate for life. Nesting Puffins dig a deep
burrow or find a deep crevice in the rocks and the hen lays
a single egg. Both parents care for and feed the chick. Once
the chick is about six weeks old, both parents leave, and
the chick goes out to fish on its own after about a week of
There are several different islands that have been named
Puffin Island for the breeding colonies of Puffin that were
or still are there.
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