What is a Puffin?

Puffin, commonly known as bottlenose or sea parrot, is one of three species of diving birds belonging to the Alcidae family in the Animalia kingdom. The puffin animal is of the order Charadriiformes, belonging to  Class, Aves of the Order, Charadriiformes and the Family, Alcidae. Their big, brilliantly coloured triangular beaks characterise them. Puffin birds, like most birds, have hollow bones, which reduces their weight and makes flying easier. Throughout history, humans have had a significant impact on numerous Puffin colonies. Puffins were and still are a food source, and their skins were traditionally sewed together, feathers intact, to produce a weatherproof cloak or coat. Puffin animal colonies have also suffered from overfishing and pollution. Let us dive deeper and learn more about the puffin bird that still displays uniqueness in its way of living. 


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Various Puffin Bird Around The World 


Types

Scientific Name

Length

Weight 

Location

Atlantic Puffin also known as the Common Puffin

Fratercula arctica


30 cm long and 50 cm wingspan 

380grams

In the winter, found in the North Atlantic shorelines and can move as far south as Morocco and New York. 

Horned Puffin

Fratercula corniculata

48 cm long and 60 cm wingspan 

620grams

Found in the Northern Pacific region and the winters it can be found in Baja California. 

Tufted Puffin also known as  the Crested Puffin 

Fratercula cirrhata


40 cm long and 65 cm wingspan 

780grams

Generally seen in the Pacific Ocean in the north. Whereas in winters it can be as far south as California or as far north as Honshu. 

Rhinoceros Auklet also known as Rhino Auklet or the Horn-billed Puffin or Unicorn Puffin

Cerorhinca monocerata


30 cm long and 60 cm wingspan 

620grams

In the North part of the Pacific Ocean and see Californian winters and northern Asian winters.


Characteristics and Features of The Puffin Animal 

  • Puffin Bird Population and Lifespan- Puffins live in the wild for about 20 years. The oldest puffin ever recorded lived to be 36 years old. Worldwide, estimates range from 3 to 6 million. Each spring and summer, Iceland is home to roughly 60% of the world's Atlantic puffin population. Every year, 8 to 10 million puffins flock to the island, making it an ideal spot to spot them.

Around the country, colonies can be found along the coast. The Westman Islands in South Iceland, Grimsey Island in North Iceland, and the stunning Westfjords are all recommended. The Látrabjarg cliffs are one of the most densely populated bird cliffs on the planet.

  • The Appearance of the Puffin Bird- The Atlantic Puffin and the Horned Puffin have black bodies and white bellies. The body of the tufted puffin is completely black. All three have white faces and brightly coloured beaks (red, yellow, and orange). The face of the Rhinoceros Auklet is dark grey with a lighter belly and no white sections. The small vertical white horn-like plate at the base of its bill gives it its name.

  • Flying Mechanism- Due to the narrow wings of the puffin bird, it takes a lot of effort for these hungry seabirds to take flight, flapping their wings at roughly 400 beats per minute. Everything pays off in the end since they can achieve speeds of up to 88 km/h which is about 55 miles per hour. A puffin will puff itself up when agitated, spreading its wings, opening its beak, and stamping its feet to appear more frightening. The two opponents will lock beaks and then beat each other with their wings and feet in a real fight. When a puffin lands after a flight, it frequently adopts another "I don't want any trouble" stance, this time with one foot in front of the other and its wings spread wide. This allows it to become a part of the community rather than being chased off the solid ground after a long flight.

  • Eating Habits- The puffin animal diet includes mostly zooplankton and fishes. Puffins are one of the few birds that can carry multiple small fish crosswise in their beaks, thanks to a unique hinge that allows the top and bottom halves of their beaks to meet at different angles instead of slicing only straight up. The puffin's rough tongue can hold the fish against the bird's palate's spine while the beak opens to catch more fish. With their scratchy tongues and spiky pilates, they can firmly grab 10 to 12 fish in a single foraging excursion. In comparison to other seabirds that swallow and regurgitate meals for their chicks, they can bring more food back to them. The Rhinoceros Auklets have been observed eating krill and squid. They can stay submerged for up to two and a half minutes.

  • Diving Ability- A puffin can dive for up to a minute, but they usually only stay underwater for 30 seconds. They steer themselves underwater with outstretched wings that almost appear to fly, and their feet act as a rudder. They can dive to depths of up to 60 metres.

  • Puffin Animal As Flappers- Flapping is the way the puffin animal moves about anywhere they go. When flying, the puffin bird flaps their wings up to 400 times per minute, causing the wings to blur. They can fly at nearly 90 kilometres per hour.

  • Predators of the Puffin Animal-  These animals consume puffin as their food and hence considered a danger for the puffin bird. In the natural world, the Great Black-backed Gull is the most dangerous predator for Puffins. Gulls are large enough to pluck Puffins from the air or from their burrows. Nature also poses a threat in the form of foxes and rats. Adult puffins are not harmed by Herring Gulls, but they will frequently steal their food, sometimes right out of their beaks. 

  • Social Structure of the Puffin Bird- A colony, a puffinry, a circus, a burrow, a gathering, or an improbability are all names for a group of puffins. Puffins are highly social birds that live in large colonies. The Westman Isles, part of Iceland, are home to the world's largest documented colony of Atlantic Puffins. According to scientists, there were 4 million individual birds in 2009, with 1 million nests between them. A puffin passing through a fellow puffin's burrow will lower its beak to its chest and move quickly past, indicating that it is only passing through. The puffin guarding its burrow will often adopt a soldier-like stance, standing erect, head down, and moving its feet slowly and exaggeratedly. 

  • Mating Rituals and Reproductive Cycle of Puffin- Puffins reach sexual maturity around the age of 4 or 5. The puffins' famous brightly coloured beaks are only used during the breeding season which starts from the month of April and lasts up to August month, after which they are shed, revealing the duller "real" bill beneath. The male and female will “bill” each other by rubbing their beaks together. The egg-laying season begins in April in more southern colonies and lasts until June in more northern colonies. 

Puffins usually stay with the same mate for the rest of their lives, returning to the burrow they dug together for subsequent mating seasons. Burrows are dug into soft soil or constructed from holes in rocky shorelines. Puffins have been known to take over rabbit burrows in the past. Puffins only lay one egg at a time. If the first egg is lost early enough in the breeding season, a couple may be able to produce a second. Both parents take turns incubating the white eggs with their brood of Puffin animal patch which is a patch of featherless skin on their underside or the anterior portion that allows heat to be transferred. It takes between 5 and 8 weeks for the egg to hatch. 

The Puffin parents then take turns flying out to catch multiple fish to bring back to feed the puffling baby and satiate their hunger. Puffins are one of those rare birds that bring food back whole, while other bird animals feed by eating it and then regurgitating it into the mouth of the baby. After 7 or 8 weeks, the baby is ready to leave the burrow.

  • Relationship of Puffin Animal with Humans- Puffins are hunted for their eggs, feathers, and meat, among many other things like their skin as well. During the 19th and early 20th centuries, habitat destruction and exploitation drastically reduced Atlantic puffin populations. In Iceland and the Faroe Islands, they are still hunted. Harvesting has resulted in a significant decline on the Blasket Islands off the coast of County Kerry, Ireland. The islanders often lived on the brink of starvation until the islands were abandoned in 1953. As a result, large numbers of puffins were hunted for food.

In Iceland, where the Atlantic puffin has no legal protection, it is a part of the national diet. Puffins are hunted using a method known as "sky fishing," which entails catching puffins in a large net as they dive into the seawater. Hotel menus frequently feature their meat. A traditional Icelandic delicacy is to eat the fresh heart of a puffin raw. On the Faroe Islands, puffins are considered a delicacy. On Grimsey, a small Icelandic island, up to 200 puffins can be caught in one morning. 


Interesting and Fun Facts About Puffins Animal

  1. In the winter, puffins lose their appearance. In the winter, puffins moult their wing feathers, making them unable to fly. They have such a distinct appearance and are so infrequently observed in the winter that experts who did observe them in the past sometimes mistook them for a whole different species.

  2. Before taking off, puffins rush clumsily across the water's surface with their brilliantly coloured feet. And their landings are anything from graceful, usually ending in a belly-flop or a comic roll across the water's surface. Because of their vividly coloured beaks, they're often referred to as clowns.

  3. Fratercula, the genus name for puffins, is Latin meaning "little brother." The name comes from the sea bird's black and white plumage, which was originally thought to resemble monks' robes. 

  4. A puffin is around the same weight as a can of Coke.

  5. Nobody knows why male and female Rhinoceros Auklets have horns on their beaks.

  6. Scientists are still unsure how Puffins return to their burrows each year after spending months at sea.

  7. Rhinoceros Auklets are nocturnal, which makes studying their natural behaviour patterns difficult.

  8. The Rhinoceros Auklet is the last member of the Cerorhinca genus.

  9. Puffins only deposit one egg each year, and they normally mate with the same partner. Both parents take turns incubating the egg and caring for the chick, as do some penguins. 

  10. Puffins may make a lot of noise in their breeding colonies, but they are completely silent at sea.

  11. There are currently eight islands named Puffin Island around the world, all of which are or were formerly home to significant colonies of puffins.

  12. Iceland is home to 60 per cent of the world's puffins.

  13. Puffins are one of the only birds capable of holding multiple tiny fish in their bills at the same time. 

  14. Puffins lay a single egg in late April or early May. The egg is normally white, however, it may have a violet or lilac tint to it. 

  15.  Mama and papa puffins take turns fishing and returning to the nest with their catch for their young. The joints of their beaks are notched for maximum efficiency. As a result, the birds can keep their catch while diving back in open-mouthed for more.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. Is it Possible For a Puffin to Fly?

Answer. A puffin's top speed is 55 miles per hour. Puffins have a cruising height of roughly 30 feet, which is higher than other auks, which only stay a few feet above the sea. Puffins are one of the only birds capable of holding multiple tiny fish in their bills at the same time.

2. Are Puffins Intelligent?

Answer. The use of tools by puffins could indicate that seabird intelligence is underestimated. The group of creatures that use tools was long regarded to be quite exclusive, with membership limited to intellectual species noted for their problem-solving abilities. The scratching and other such activities had previously only been observed in cerebral heavyweights such as our ape cousins and elephants, according to the authors. This is the first evidence of tool use in seabirds, along with a similar observation made in Wales in 2014. The findings suggest that seabirds like puffins are smarter or have better problem-solving abilities than previously thought. Many studies however are yet to be performed for a better understanding and clear evidence.

3. Do the Beaks of Puffins Fall Off?

Answer. Well, not quite. Puffins, on the other hand, are often seen in their breeding plumage or the mating season, which includes more intricate and colourful components on their beaks. The colourful elements at the base of the beak fall off as the breeding season progresses, making it appear slimmer. The beaks during this become of size lesser than their usual large and hence associated with falling off which does not hold true in literal terms. 

4. Is it Possible to Keep Puffins as Pets?

Answer. A reserve in Bempton Cliffs, East Yorkshire, has a well-known mainland colony that primarily nests on island cliffs. Adult birds return to their colonies before breeding but spend the majority of their time on the water in enormous groups known as 'rafts. In most areas, they are unlawful, and they are unlawful in the United States and Canada, where they are protected by special laws. And it's not nearly as entertaining as you imagine. Puffins, like penguins, are unable to housebreak, meaning they poop wherever they like. Besides, the cost of keeping a puffin pet and its maintenance is not pocket friendly so you need to consider it twice before contemplating such an investment.