Atlantic Puffin - Fratercula arctica
The Atlantic puffin was once known as the common puffin. It is a short and stocky diving sea bird about 12 inches in length with a wingspan of 20-24 inches. It is black on its uppersides and white on its chest and belly. It has bright orange webbed feet; a white face and cheeks; and a large, triangular parrot-like bill that is bright red and yellow. After the breeding season, some of the bill's outer horny plates fall off and the bill is smaller and duller. The puffin's white face also becomes darker after the breeding season. The puffin looks so different during breeding and non-breeding season that it was once thought to be two separate species of bird. Males and females look alike.
The Atlantic puffin breeds along the Atlantic Coast from the Canadian Maritimes south to Maine.
It winters far offshore in deep ocean waters. The Atlantic puffin is also found in Northern Europe.
The Atlantic puffin dives for its food and uses its wings to swim underwater. It dives both from the air and from the surface of the water and can dive hundreds of feet under the water in pursuit of prey. It catches small fish, crustaceans, and mollusks and usually swallows them underwater.
The puffin nests in small colonies. The male uses his bill and feet to dig a nesting burrow on an ocean cliff or island. The nest is lined with grass. The nest may also be made in a rocky crevice. The female lays a single egg and both parents incubate the egg by tucking it under a wing and leaning against it. The egg hatches in about 40 days, and both parents feed the chick for another 40 days. The adult Atlantic puffin can carry as many as 30 small fish in its bill to feed to its chick. Male and female pairs may mate for more than one season.
The Atlantic puffin is one of four species of puffins and is the only puffin that lives in the North Atlantic Ocean. It is sometimes known as the "sea parrot" or the "clown of the sea" because of its colorful and comical appearance.
Audio Credit: xeno-canto.org Hans Petter Kristoffersen