The “clowns of the sea”
Puffins are small birds (they weigh about the same as a can of soda) that spend most of their life at sea. They float on the waves when they need a rest, and in the spring or summer, will come home to the coasts of the North Atlantic or North Pacific Ocean to breed.
Puffins are excellent swimmers and flyers. Their webbed feet, sleek shape, waterproof feathers and light bodies allow them to dive many feet under the water in pursuit of fish. They can also flap their wings up to 400 times a minute, which makes them able to fly up to 50 mph in the sky.
Puffins are probably best known for their large, colorful beaks. But these beautiful beaks, along with their brightly colored orange feet only stick around as long as the breeding season lasts. After the season, they’ll shed the colorful outer shell of the beak and their feet will lose their color, leaving them a little less showy (but still cute)!
These little birds can live up to 20 years and often will stay with the same mate and roost in the same place. When puffins lay eggs, they lay just one at a time. Both parents will take turns keeping the egg warm and caring for the chick (called a puffling) when it’s born.
- The scientific name for puffin, Fratercula, means “little brother.”
- Puffins show affection by rubbing or tapping beaks.
- Puffins can dive up to 200 feet and stay underwater for a minute.
- 60% of the world’s puffins breed in Iceland.
- Puffin chicks stay in their burrow for 45 days, then spend 3-5 years at sea learning to hunt and fish before coming home to find a mate.
- Puffins can hold up to ten fish at once in their beaks.