Along rocky cliffs lives the lovable black and white seabirds often nicknamed “clowns of the sea” and “sea parrots”. But these aren’t penguins – they’re Puffins!
While they share similar coloration and diet, Puffins are not related to penguins. Puffins belong to the family Alcidae while penguins belong to the family Spheniscidae.
Once known as the common puffin, the Atlantic puffin weighs around 10-20 ounces (310-550 grams) and is the smallest of the four puffin species.
As they’re name implies, Atlantic puffins live in and near the Atlantic Ocean and can be found in Canada, Scotland, Norway, Greenland as well as the rocky islands off the coast of Maine, USA. Iceland holds 60 percent of the world’s puffin population.
Unlike penguins, puffins can fly! The Atlantic puffin’s wingspan is around 20-24 inches (50-60 cm). Beating their wings 400 times per minute they can fly at speeds of 55 mph (88 kph).
They’re also excellent swimmers, and can dive to depths of up to 200 ft (60 m), though they usually can stay under for only about 30 seconds.
Puffins will eat crustaceans but prefer fish including cod, capelin and herring. They can hold a dozen or more fish in their large, colorful beaks and the record for most fish is 62.
Their beaks become bright yellow and orange during breeding season in spring, but after breeding season, it fades to duller colors. Puffins usually mate for life. They dig a grass and feather lined burrow with their beak and feet where a single egg is laid. The parents take turns incubating, and after about six weeks, the fuzzy chick known as a “puffling” hatches.