The Atlantic Puffin Bird is one of four species of puffin that belong to the “Alcidae” (or Auk) family. The Atlantic puffin is also known as “The Common Puffin”. Although they are usually compared to penguins; they don’t have to many things in common. The only thing these birds share is their black and white color, swimming abilities (both seabirds), and upright posture. Puffins are also referred to as “parrots of the sea” because the biggest difference between the puffin and the penguin is their bill. Puffins are famous for their large colorful bill. An interesting fact about them is that their florescent colors only flourish in the spring in hopes to find a mate. Once winter rolls around the puffin bill will fade to a drab gray.
Many different species of animal populations have declined over the years; the puffin is unfortunately a part of this demographic. Massive declines of the Atlantic Puffin population began in the 19th century. This drop was the result of overharvesting adults and their eggs. The downfall of the puffin continued throughout the 20th century and still goes on today. Over-fishing, over-hunting, natural predators, and oil spills have added to the devolution of this breeds population. The puffin bird may not be endangered yet; however, they are threatened. There is an estimated 3-4 million puffins left today; the protection of these birds is critical. Hopefully we can contribute to the rise in this population like we contributed to their demise.
Where Can You Find Them and What Do They Eat?
Wondering where this puffin spends their time? The Atlantic of course! These birds favor the cold waters that hail from the Northern region of the Atlantic Ocean. 60 percent of this breeds population resides in Iceland, but that doesn’t mean you must travel all the way there to catch a glimpse! The puffin can be spotted from the Northeastern U.S. to Labrador. This is the area of the world they will use for nesting. They also will nest in certain areas of Greenland, Iceland, Russia, and France. If breeding season isn’t in swing they will be far out in the middle of the ocean. Like other seabirds these guys have a diet consisting of mostly fish. Their diet will differ from colony to colony due to the variety of fish in the waters around their breeding grounds. Some fish they indulge in are sand eels, hake, herring, and capelin. Once winter rolls around they will eat crustaceans but fish is ideal. The bill of a puffin is specialized for catching as well as holding onto large amounts of fish. The usual catch is 10 at a time but the record held by a puffin in Britain was a total of 62 fish at once! Their tongue plays a roll in making these catches easier by holding the fish up to the spine plates on the roof of their mouth.
People all over love to watch these birds naturally in their environment. So much that they actually hold tours dedicated just to watching puffins in Maine and Iceland. Watching them in their habitat and observing first hand their body language can be fascinating. If you plan on ever taking a trip to our Northeastern states and are interested in seeing these bird in action find a puffin tour near you. These parrots of the sea are best spotted between June and July.