Atlantic puffin

This incredible bird can hold up to 30 fish in its beak at once

david klaasen

The Atlantic puffin, affectionately known as the “sea parrot” due to its comical appearance, is a remarkable seabird renowned for its distinctive features and fascinating behavior. With its stout body, short wings, and colorful plumage, the Atlantic puffin cuts a striking figure against the backdrop of coastal landscapes and rocky cliffs.

During the breeding season, adult Atlantic puffins don a striking ensemble of black and white plumage, with black upperparts contrasting sharply against their white bellies and vents. The neck, crown, and forehead are adorned with jet-black feathers, adding to the bird’s distinctive appearance. However, outside of the breeding season, these seabirds undergo a transformation, adopting a more subdued coloration that blends seamlessly with their marine environment.

The Atlantic puffin is primarily a creature of the sea, spending much of its life far from shore in pelagic and offshore environments. However, during the breeding season, these seabirds return to coastal habitats, where they establish nesting colonies on grassy slopes, sea cliffs, and rocky outcrops. Nesting sites are carefully chosen to provide protection from predators and access to prime feeding grounds, ensuring the survival of both adults and their offspring.

One of the most remarkable adaptations of the Atlantic puffin is its oversized beak, which serves as a highly efficient tool for catching and storing prey. With a capacity to hold up to 30 small fish at a time, the puffin’s beak is a marvel of engineering, allowing it to capture and transport multiple prey items with ease. Using its agile tongue and upper jaw, the puffin deftly maneuvers its catch, securing each fish in place before embarking on the next hunting foray.

Despite its seemingly clumsy appearance, the Atlantic puffin is a skilled and agile hunter, capable of diving to considerable depths in search of prey. Fish such as sand eels, herring, and capelin make up the bulk of its diet, although crustaceans and other marine invertebrates are also consumed opportunistically.

Distribution

Country
Population est.
Status
Year
Comments
Algeria
2018
Austria
2018
Vagrant
Belgium
2018
Non-Breeding
Bermuda
2018
Vagrant
Canada
2018
Croatia
2018
Vagrant
Denmark
2018
Estonia
2018
Seasonality Uncertain
Faroe Islands
2018
Finland
2018
Vagrant
France
2018
Germany
2018
Non-Breeding
Gibraltar
2018
Greenland
2018
Hungary
2018
Vagrant
Iceland
2018
Ireland
2018
Italy
2018
Non-Breeding
Latvia
2018
Seasonality Uncertain
Lithuania
2018
Seasonality Uncertain
Malta
2018
Vagrant
Monaco
2018
Seasonality Uncertain
Montenegro
2018
Seasonality Uncertain
Morocco
2018
Netherlands
2018
Non-Breeding
Norway
2018
Breeding
Poland
2018
Vagrant
Portugal
2018
Non-Breeding
Russia
2018
Breeding: European Russia
Russia
2018
Vagrant: Central Asian Russia
Saint Pierre
2018
Serbia
2018
Seasonality Uncertain
Spain
2018
Non-Breeding
Svalbard
2018
Breeding
Sweden
2018
Non-Breeding
Tunisia
2018
United Kingdom
2018
Breeding
United States
2018
Breeding

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Terrestrial / Aquatic

Altricial / Precocial

Polygamous / Monogamous

Dimorphic (size) / Monomorphic

Active: Diurnal / Nocturnal

Social behavior: Solitary / Pack / Herd / Colony

Diet: Carnivore / Herbivore / Omnivore / Piscivorous / Insectivore

Migratory: Yes / No

Domesticated: Yes / No

Dangerous: Yes / No