Atlantic Puffin

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Atlantic Puffin

Fratercula arctica
  • ORDER: Charadriiformes
  • FAMILY: Alcidae
Basic Description

A sharply dressed black-and-white seabird with a huge, multicolored bill, the Atlantic Puffin is often called the clown of the sea. It breeds in burrows on islands in the North Atlantic, and winters at sea. In flight, puffins flap their small wings frantically to stay aloft—but underwater those wings become powerful flippers that allow the birds to catch small fish one by one until they have a beak full. This long-lived bird, once widely hunted, is reestablishing its small range in the U.S., although warming ocean waters are causing breeding failures in other parts of the North Atlantic.

More ID Info
image of range map for Atlantic PuffinRange map provided by Birds of North AmericaExplore Maps

Find This Bird

The best time to find Atlantic Puffins is during the breeding season. From late April through August they come ashore to nest on islands—the rest of the year they’re far out at sea. In the U.S. the best bet is to take a boat trip to rocky islands off Maine. Elsewhere, puffins nest in larger numbers in Canada, Scotland, Greenland, Norway, and especially Iceland, which is home to about half the global population. In these countries, a visit to a puffin colony can provide great views of hundreds to thousands of the birds. Outside of the breeding season, you’ll likely need to take a pelagic birding trip well offshore to find one.

Other Names
  • Frailecillo Atlántico (Spanish)
  • Macareux moine (French)
  • Cool Facts