Atlantic Puffin

The Atlantic Puffin (Fratercula arctica) is an auk with a brightly colored beak. It is a pelagic seabird that feeds primarily by diving for fish. Atlantic Puffins breed in large colonies, nesting in crevices or burrows.

This particular puffin is 28-34 cm in length, with a 50-60 cm wingspan and is mainly black above and white below, with a pale grey face and orange legs. The bright orange bill plates grow before the breeding season and are shed later. The bills are used in courtship rituals, such as the pair tapping bills together.

This species breeds on the coasts of northern Europe, Iceland and eastern North America, in burrows on grassy cliffs but also amongst rocks and scree, and winters far out to sea. It makes a noisy grunt at the breeding burrows. Feeding areas are usually located fairly far offshore from the nest. There is usually one chick and both parents feed the young.

Puffins will collect several small fish when hunting, and line them up in their bills facing alternately to each side. They also eat crustaceans and mollusks.

The population of these birds was greatly reduced in the 1800s when they were hunted for meat and eggs. More recently, populations have declined due to predation by large gulls and the inadvertent introduction of rats onto some islands used for nesting. An Atlantic Puffin may live for around 25 years.

The Atlantic Puffin is the official bird of Newfoundland and Labrador.