Atlantic Puffin

The Atlantic Puffin (sometimes referred to as the Common Puffin) is one of four puffin species and the only one that lives on the North Atlantic Ocean. During breeding season they are found along the North Atlantic shorelines, and then moves in the winter out into the open Atlantic. They are always found south of the icepack, and sometimes as far south as New York.

The Atlantic Puffin is a small, duck-like bird. Males and females are similar in appearance, with a black body, a white chest and orange legs. One of its most recognizable features are the red and black markings around the eyes, and of course the large and colourful beak. The beak fades to a drab gray during the winter and then blooms with red, yellow, and orange again in the spring.

COMMON NAME: Atlantic Puffin

SCIENTIFIC NAME: Fratercula arctica

TYPE: Birds

DIET: Carnivores



SIZE: 10 in

WEIGHT: 17.5 oz

*** GREAT PLACE(S) TO PHOTOGRAPH: Witless Bay Ecological Reserve, Newfoundland and Elliston Puffin Site, Newfoundland

Interesting Facts:

  • The Latin name is Fratercula arctica, with fratercula meaning "little brother" and arctica meaning "north." This scientific name can be translated as "little brother of the north." The puffin is also known as the "sea parrot" or "clown of the sea".
  • The Atlantic Puffin is the official bird of Newfoundland and Labrador. This province has ninety five percent of all North America’s breeding areas. The largest puffin colony in the Western Atlantic is in Newfoundland, at the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve.
  • Puffins cannot take off without a running start.
  • These brilliant birds are great swimmers. Puffins can swim under water for up to a minute at a time, using their webbed feet as a rudder, puffins can dive down 60m.
  • Puffins can flap their wings up to 400 times a minute and speed through the air at up to 88km an hour.
  • When courting puffins rub and clack their beaks together, this is called billing.
  • Puffins are one of the few birds that have the ability to hold several small fish in their bills at a time. Their raspy tongues and spiny palates allow them to firm grasp 10 to 12 fish during one foraging trip. They thus can bring more food back to their young compared with other seabirds that tend to swallow and regurgitate meals for their chicks.
  • They build burrows in the rocky cliffs or on the solid ground between rocks. Burrows are located 3 feet underground.
  • Puffins lay just one egg per year—and usually with the same mate, some may have been together for 20 years. 

  • Puffins make loud growling calls usually from underground, which sound like a muffled chainsaw.

  • Puffins are carnivores and live off small fish such as herring, hake and sand eels.

  • Breeding is the only reason that puffins come ashore. In spring and summer, thousands of puffins gather in colonies on the coasts and islands of the North Atlantic Ocean.

NORTH OF 49 PHOTOGRAPHY :  the Atlantic Puffin can be spotted on this photography workshop