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Atlantic Puffin

From Opus

Adult in breeding plumage Photo © by JenygardRunde, Norway, 23 June 2003
Adult in breeding plumage
Photo © by Jenygard
Runde, Norway, 23 June 2003
Fratercula arctica


[edit] Identification

28-34 cm

  • Black crown and upperparts
  • Greyish-white cheeks
  • Black throat-band
  • White underparts
  • Orange legs
  • Red orbital ring
  • Bill: in breeding season is large and triangular, brightly coloured red, yellow and blue. It is smaller in winter with less red and more yellow
Juvenile ("puffling")Photo © by drexylFarne Islands, Northumberland, 4 July 2011
Juvenile ("puffling")
Photo © by drexyl
Farne Islands, Northumberland, 4 July 2011

[edit] Confusion Species

Similar to the larger Horned Puffin which ranges in the North Pcific and which has a yellow base to its bill. Smaller than Common Murre (which has a longer thinner bill) and Razorbill. Larger than Dovekie. All these have wing bars, lacking in the Puffin.

[edit] Distribution

Breeds in colonies on the coasts of northern Europe, the Faroe Islands, Iceland and eastern North America, from well within the Arctic Circle to northern France and Maine.

Pelagic in the winter months, usually further out to sea than other auks.

[edit] Taxonomy

Geographical variation is largely clinal, and boundaries between the named subspecies are somewhat arbitrary. This species is now treated as monotypic by most authorities following a recommendation by Sangster et al. (2005)[7]

[edit] Subspecies

There are three subspecies recognized by Clements et al. (2018)[1]:

  • F. a. naumanni:
  • F. a. arctica:
  • F. a. grabae:

[edit] Habitat

Adult in flight carrying foodPhoto © by oncebitternFarne Islands, Northumberland, 13 June 2009
Adult in flight carrying food
Photo © by oncebittern
Farne Islands, Northumberland, 13 June 2009

Pelagic; breeds on coastal cliffs or offshore islands.

[edit] Behaviour

[edit] Flight

They fly with rapidly whirring wings.

[edit] Breeding

The breeding season is from May to June with 1 egg; 1 brood. The grooves on the bill increase with age. They use abandoned rabbit or shearwater burrows (sometimes small caves in a cliff face) on steep grassy slopes at the top of a cliff.

The lifespan of a Puffin is up to 36 years[2].

[edit] Diet

It is mainly Sandeels that are fed to the chick, these increase in size as the youngster grows. They have a semi-rigid rasping tongue which pushes already caught sandeels up onto spikes on the hard palate - this frees up the mandibles (especially the lower) to snap at the next victim!

[edit] Vocalisation

Call: a throaty growl

Listen to Atlantic Puffin voice clip

[edit] References

  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2018. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: v2018. Downloaded from
  2. BTO BirdFacts: Puffin
  3. BirdLife International. 2017. Fratercula arctica. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2017: e.T22694927A117606911. Downloaded on 21 September 2018.
  4. Lowther, P. E., A. W. Diamond, S. W. Kress, G. J. Robertson, and K. Russell (2002). Atlantic Puffin (Fratercula arctica), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (A. F. Poole and F. B. Gill, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.
  5. Nettleship, D.N., Kirwan, G.M., Christie, D.A., Sharpe, C.J., Garcia, E.F.J. & Boesman, P. (2018). Atlantic Puffin (Fratercula arctica). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 21 September 2018).
  6. Provencher, Jennifer & Gaston, Anthony. (2012). A Specimen of the High Arctic Subspecies of Atlantic Puffin, Fratercula arctica naumanni, in Canada. Canadian Field Naturalist. 126. 50-54. 10.22621/cfn.v126i1.1297.
  7. Sangster, G., Collinson, J.M., Helbig, A.J., Knox, A.G. & Parkin, D.T. (2005) Taxonomic recommendations for British birds: third report. Ibis 147(4): 821–826.
  8. Wikipedia contributors. (2018, September 5). Atlantic puffin. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 09:17, September 21, 2018, from
  9. Collins Pocket Guide to British Birds 1966
  10. Collins Field Guide 5th Edition
  11. Collins Bird Guide ISBN 0 00 219728 6
  12. BirdForum Member observations

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