The puffin is a rare, spectacular and unmistakable bird. Its scientific name is Fratercula Arctica but it is often referred to as the “Common Atlantic Puffin”.
Its striking appearance and the variety of its colours have given rise to nicknames such as “Sea Clown” and “Sea Parakeet”.
However, their most popular name, frailecillo, is due to their characteristic black and white plumage, which makes them look like a clergyman.
In this article you can learn the most important details about this rare animal, its characteristics, habitat, feeding and reproduction.
Characteristics of the Puffin Bird
The Atlantic Puffin or a very rare bird because of its physical appearance. It is a Caradiform sea bird, which is part of the Alcidae family. At present there are three species: Corletudo, Corniculus and Atlantic.
It is a really lovely bird. It has a body with very particular and beautiful tones. It is white on the belly and face and black on the back and wings.
Because of their pigmentation, they are often associated with penguins, but they also resemble penguins because of their clumsy walk on land.
The legs, the lower part of the eyes and the edge of the beak are bright orange in spring, but in winter they turn grey.
Both male and female have the same colours and it is difficult to tell them apart, but this can be achieved by observing the size as males are slightly larger than females.
Their body has a compact structure formed by a thick black neck, short wings and tail.
It measures about 30 centimeters long from its beak to its tail. Its width ranges from 47 to 67 centimeters.
Its beak is quite striking, as it is wide and triangular. The puffin is characterized by being very strong so its bite is really powerful.
Around its beak you can see some rings that determine the age of the specimen. By the way, this rare bird can live up to 25 years.
This strange animal is a very fast bird that can fly at 80 kilometers per hour and beat its wings 400 times per minute.
Furthermore, they are known to be excellent swimmers and divers, enduring underwater for more than 30 seconds, at depths of almost 30 meters.
The puffin spends most of its time preening itself to keep its feathers neat and clean.
Natural habitat of the Atlantic Puffin
The common puffin has its natural habitat in arctic areas. Although they make a marine pilgrimage for seven or eight months, in spring they return to the waters of the Arctic.
They have been recorded in Russia, the United States, Alaska, Siberia, Canada, Iceland, Norway, Greenland, the British Isles and areas near Iceland.
During the summer they have been seen on the rocky cliffs of the North Atlantic and northern Europe. However, they spend most of their time in the open sea.
What Puffins eat?
Its diet is mainly based on fish, although it has been observed that on several occasions it eats molluscs, shrimps, crustaceans and some worms.
They can eat large foods when they are on the surface but when they are submerged in water their prey is usually small.
How do they reproduce?
The puffin may begin to mate only when it reaches 4 or 5 years of age.
These are monogamous birds that keep the same pair and the same den every year.
The breeding season for this rare animal is spring, and during this time the specimens return to the Arctic to find their partner and together repair the burrow they left the previous year.
A puffin’s nest is usually at least 50 centimetres long and is covered with grass, branches and feathers. However, other pairs prefer to settle in cracks under large rocks.
Mating is done on water. The male shakes his head, inflates his chest and flaps his wings, and at the same time both peck at each other.
The female may lay only one egg and both parents take it under their wings to incubate it for 6 weeks.
After this time, a soft chick emerges, with grey and black down, and the parents take care of it and provide it with food.
About six weeks later it will fly so well that it can leave the nest, to which it will not return until two or three years later.
Do they have predators? What are they?
Today, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the puffin is a vulnerable species, one of the reasons being attacks by its predators.
The list of these is headed by the Black-backed Gull and the Herring Gull, but other species such as rats, foxes, and even domestic animals such as dogs and cats are also found.
Humans have also significantly affected puffin populations by pollution, overfishing and global warming.