Atlantic Puffin

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Common Name: Atlantic Puffin
Scientific Name: Fratercula arctica

Size: 12 ½ inches (32 cm)

Habitat: North Atlantic: coasts of northern Europe south to northern France, Ireland, the Faroe Islands, Iceland, Greenland and eastern North America south to Maine. Winters south to Morocco and New York.

Status: Least Concern. Global Population: 5,700,000 - 6,000,000 mature individuals. Puffins are hunted for eggs, feathers and meat. Atlantic Puffin populations drastically declined due to habitat destruction and exploitation during the 1800s and early 1900s. They continue to be hunted in Iceland and the Faroes even today. The Atlantic Puffin forms part of the national diet in Iceland, where the species does not have legal protection. Puffins are hunted by a technique called “sky fishing”, which involves catching low-flying birds with a big net. Their meat is commonly featured on hotel menus. The fresh heart of a Puffin is eaten raw as a traditional Icelandic delicacy.

Diet: Sandeel, herring and capelin.

Nesting: Puffins breed in colonies on coasts and islands. The male Atlantic Puffin builds the nest and exhibits strong nest-site fidelity. The nesting substrate of the Atlantic Puffins is soft soil, into which tunnels are dug. The Atlantic Puffin burrow is usually lined with material such as grass, leaves and feathers but is occasionally unlined. The eggs of the Atlantic Puffin are creamy white but can be occasionally tinged lilac.

Atlantic Puffin, Lundy, UK Puffins form long-term pair bonds or relationships. The female lays a single egg, and both parents incubate the egg and feed the chick. The incubating parent holds the egg against its brood patch with its wings. The chicks fledge at night. After fledging, the chicks spend the first few years of their lives at sea, returning to breed about five years later. Puffins in captivity have been known to breed as early as three years of age.

After breeding, puffins winter at sea, usually far from coasts and often extending south of the breeding range.

Cool Facts: “Fratercula” in Latin means “little brother” and is probably a reference to puffins’ black and white plumage, which resembles monastic robes.

The puffins are distinct in their ability to hold several (sometimes over a dozen) small fish at a time, crosswise in their bill, rather than regurgitating swallowed fish. This allows them to take longer foraging trips, since they can come back with more food energy for their chick than a bird that can only carry one fish at a time.

Found in Songbird ReMix Puffins

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