Atlantic Puffin - Fratercula Arctica
Population trend: Decreasing … In winter, the puffin’s famously colourful beak becomes dull and grey
Type: Seabird (Alcidae/Auk family)
Location: From the eastern coast of Canada and the northern United States to the western coast of Europe and northern Russia. Around 10% of the world’s puffins live in the UK.
Size: Approx 25 cm long.
Habitat: Open ocean and rocky cliffs.
The greatest threats to Atlantic puffins are all man-made. These include over-fishing in puffin breeding grounds, pollution (such as oil spills), and the introduction of predators on the ground (rats and mink). These threats put puffins at risk because of their low reproductive rates and the fact that they breed in concentrated colonies.
Although classified as ‘Least Concern’ worldwide by the IUCN, the puffin is on the UK’s Amber list of bird species, meaning it is of medium conservation concern.
Also known as the Common Puffin, approximately 581,000 pairs nest in the UK. They live with a single mate for many years and lay a single egg in the spring, nesting in burrows, often old rabbit or shearwater burrows.
Did you know?
- Atlantic puffins are pursuit-diving hunters, and can dive down to depths of 60 metres, however they tend to only forage down to about 30 metres.
- Puffins have serrated beaks with an extra bone at the tip which they use to catch and carry several prey items at once. The current record is an estimated 62 to 83 sand eels in the beak of a single individual spotted in the USA.
- Their black and white colouring is a form of camouflage called counter-colouring; aerial predators cannot see their black backs against the dark sea and aquatic prey cannot see their white fronts against bright light.
- When a puffin is around 3-5 years old, it will choose a partner at sea to mate with for life.
What MCS is doing:
- Working towards better protection of puffin marine habitats in the UK;
- Working towards better management of fisheries that impact puffin prey;
- Combating marine litter that threatens seabirds like the puffin.