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Little clown from the Arctic

Who are puffins ?

Scientific name

30 cm

320 – 550 g

Social structure
Gregarious / Monogamous

Fish, shellfish, molluscs…

Life span
22 years

Atlantic, horned or tufted ?

There are three different puffin species. The Atlantic puffin lives, as its name suggests, in the North Atlantic area. Horned and tufted puffins live in the North Pacific region. Their habitat is not the only way we can identify them. While tufted puffins have a long tuft of yellow feathers behind each eye, horned puffins have a sort of little black horn on top of each eye.

Puffin are marine birds that are easily recognized with their highly colored beaks and orange legs. But they were not actually born like that.
When they’re still young, puffins are duller. It is especially noticeable on their beaks and at the top of their heads. Even adults will wear those colors during winter. But with spring coming, mature adults will recover their beautiful breeding colors.

Atlantic puffins

50 m

This is the maximum depth a diving puffin can reach !

Puffins are very good at swimming. They can hold their breath for 10 seconds and are even capable of changing directions below the surface thanks to their wings !

Puffins lives follow seasons. During winter, they head out to sea. This is a shedding period for them. At that time, they lose major wing and tail feathers. They’re unable to fly for several weeks. When spring is coming (March/April), they head back towards land in order to breed. They generally come back to the same colony to gather together with their previous years partners. They dig a den up with their sharp claws, either on a high cliff or on a rocky island. Mating pairs only have one offspring they feed by bring back small fish in their beaks.

Tufted puffin

Where to see puffins ?

This is an interactive map, don’t hesitate to mouse over it.

Countries where there are puffins in the wild

Countries where we have already observed puffins in the wild

How to observe puffins ?

Finding puffins is not a difficult task. But it is still important to know where to look. Those little birds are not only usual with their looks, they’re unusual with their habitat. Nesting at the top of high cliffs is their favorite. Give them a little bit of soil, a little bit of grass and they’re ready dig up a real cozy den. Not that ordinary for a bird ! Once you’ve found a puffin cliff, you’re not completely done. You will need a good pair of binoculars to observe them. Don’t forget they don’t exceed 30 cm in height !
Another good occasion to see puffins might be during a cruise. This is a real treat for your eyes. With fishing having their beaks full of fish and those trying to takeoff as the boat approaches, you really don’t know where to start you pictures !

Where you little puffins ?

How can you find puffins within dozens of razorbills ? Just look for orange&nbsp!

Are puffins in danger ?

Estimation of the number of puffin individuals living in the wild :

While horned and tufted puffins are classified as Least Concern species, Atlantic puffins are a Vulnerable one. They are threatened in Europe more than anywhere else. Even though the population is estimated to be roughly 10 million individuals, it is expected to drop from 50 to 80% by 2065. That’s just three generations.

What are the causes ?

The first cause of decrease is the human being and its different activities. Fishing nets as well as oceanic pollution (plastic, oil spill…) make lots of casualties. The decrease of their food source is also a major issue for puffins survival. This decrease is caused both by overfishing and global warming. The change in ocean temperatures completely upsets the distribution of marine resources. And less food avaible means less puffin reproduction.

Another threat to those little birds are invasive species such as rats, cats or even minks. By directly targeting the colonies, they are a real danger for the species conservation.

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