ATLANTIC PUFFIN

ATLANTIC PUFFIN(Fratercula arctica)
DESCRIPTION: The Atlantic Puffin has a uniquely colorful bill in breeding season, with the section near the tip being bright orange and grey at the base, with a fine white line in-between. Its shape is also different – high but vertically flat. The sides of the head and face – around the eye – are white, the upper parts are black and the under parts white. The legs and webbed feet are bright orange. There is also a black neckband. Sexes are similar. It is a small seabird at around 30 cm (12 in.) long.
VOICE: https://www.xeno-canto.org/species/Fratercula-arctica
NAME: The origin of the English name ‘puffin’ relates to the ‘puffed’ carcasses of another species of bird (a shearwater) that was cured and eaten. The Latin genus name ‘fratercula’ refers to the similarity of the bird’s black and white plumage to a monk’s (friar) robe.
HABITAT: Pelagic except when breeding. There is research being done to find out where the Atlantic puffin spends its time outside the breeding season, which has been a mystery so far.
DIET:  Atlantic puffins feed on fish such as sand eel (photo below) and occasionally on crustaceans and worms. They swim underwater with paddle-like wing movements, using their feet as rudders.
NESTING: The Atlantic puffin is a very social bird that breeds in colonies on small rocky islands. The nest is inside a burrow. One white egg is laid, which is incubated by both parents. The chick is fed by both parents.
DISTRIBUTION: The breeding range of this puffin covers both sides of the North Atlantic and the south part of the Arctic sea in-between, with the majority of the colonies in Iceland.
ON PEI: The Atlantic puffin does not breed on Prince Edward Island, and there have been only a few sightings so far, including one at East Point on December 14, 2005. There was also a weak bird found at Savage Harbor but that later died Nov. 23, 2015 at the Atlantic Veterinary College (Nature PEI Newsletter #217).
CONSERVATION: Puffins have been hunted for centuries, and are still eaten by some northern populations in Europe. Although the species is listed as ‘least concern’, it is vulnerable to various factors including predation by large gulls and jaegers. The Audubon Society has a restoration program for them. The Atlantic puffin is the bird that is shown at the top left of the welcome page of the Maritime Breeding Bird Atlas website.
In Newfoundland there is a ‘puffling’ (puffin chick) patrol to prevent the chicks from being killed by traffic at night, when they come out from the nearby Witless Bay Ecological Reserve and get blinded by the street lights. Here are more articles about this issue, here and here .
There are concerns in Scotland and Scandinavia over a sharp decrease in the numbers of this species.
NOTES: Being dark on top and white below for a seabird offers better camouflage from predators from above and under when on the water.
In April 2018 it was reported that scientists have discovered that the bill of the Atlantic puffin is fluorescent. They are studying the implications of this feature.
The Atlantic puffin is a North Atlantic seabird of the alcidae family. These birds can easily swim underwater as if they would fly, but are clumsy when walking on land. They also look like penguins but are not related to them.
The Atlantic puffin is the provincial bird of Newfoundland and Labrador.
SIMILAR SPECIES: Horned Puffin, Tufted Puffin
REFERENCES: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atlantic_puffin
http://www.hww.ca/en/wildlife/birds/atlantic-puffin.html (Hinterland’s Who’s Who)
https://www.mba-aom.ca/jsp/toc.jsp (Maritimes Breeding Bird Atlas)
http://www.npolar.no/en/species/atlantic-puffin.html (Norwegian Polar Institute)
http://www.nhptv.org/natureworks/atlanticpuffin.htm (New Hampshire PBS)
https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/atlantic-puffin
https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Atlantic_Puffin/lifehistory

Atlantic puffin 'back from a fishing trip' sand eels - by Steve Garvie, Scotland
Atlantic puffin ‘back from a fishing trip’ sand eels) – by Steve Garvie, Scotland
Atlantic puffins on Farne Islands, UK - photo by Matthias Meckel
Atlantic puffins on Farne Islands, UK – photo by Matthias Meckel

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