The Atlantic Puffin

The Atlantic Puffin is one of the numerous birds which are presently living on the coast of Britain today. Their common name has come from where they live – the Atlantic Ocean but also their Latin name ‘Fratercula Artica’ meaning common puffin of the northern Atlantic. The Atlantic puffin is a member of the auk family comprising four breeds including the Atlantic, Horned and Tufted Puffins as well as the Rhinoceros Auklet. These other breeds live in North America and eastern Asia.

Over centuries they have been given nicknames such as ‘Clown of the ocean’ for their clown-like walk and ‘Sea Parrot’ for their colourful beaks. Puffins’ beaks are a similar size to a parrot’s coloured blue, yellow and orange. They have a little crease on the face which is connected at the back of the beak. During the summer, their eyes have a little triangle on top with a line coming off. Also with their black jackets and white under-colour they look like they are dressed up for dinner. People can get confused with Puffins thinking they are penguins for their waddle, big wings and orange webbed feet which leads to their excellent swimming.

Puffins feast with many other coastal birds for example Razorbill, Guillemot and maybe Gannets on Sand eels and Herrings which is their favourite because the chicks are able to swallow them whole. These breeds of fish live here because of the amount of plankton found near the cliffs. Sadly though, there has been a recent decline in Puffins because of Global Warming when the seas are warming up and the fish are unable to put up with these temperatures and dying out. The Puffins feeding techniques involves sitting in the surface then diving in, flapping its wings and feet to keep up pace with the fish then snatching them up. This technique has to be quite fast because can only stay under water for 20-40 seconds. The maximum for a Puffin to hold a certain amount of fish in its beak at a time is around a dozen fish.

The two most commonly feared predators for the Puffin are the Seagull who scoops up its victim with its claws or the worst one – the Black rat which can sneak into the Puffins burrow and eat the chick then take over the burrow. There have been many visits from the Black rat before, first recorded on Lundy Island which is sited off the Northern coast of Devon. The name Lundy originates from an Old Norse word meaning Puffin Island. Rats were introduced to the island by mistake and killed all the birds although recently in 2008 it was noted that six burrows were used for nesting! Another island which was badly hit by Black rats was Puffin Island off the coast of the island of Anglesey. Despite its name, there were no Puffins on the island for a long time as they were accidentally killed when rats were on Puffin Island by ships. Recently, they have been poisoned and hope to encourage them back again.

For these birds breeding starts and finishes in the summer. When both genders have successfully mated they either dig or find an empty burrow. Once found, both the adults start building a nest using feathers and twigs – Twigs for stabilizing and construction, Feathers for comfort. The female then only lays one single egg which is incubated by both parents for 39-43 days. Finally, when it has hatched, the chick looks like a plump ball of sooty black and fluffy all over with a small triangular beak and dark eyes. The chick is fed Sand eels, then finally after about 45 days, it will leave the nest and have its own life!

I hope this article appeals to you about the Atlantic Puffin and enjoy!


Source by Lucy Harriss

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