Atlantic Puffin (Fratercula arctica)
Puffin, Westray, Orkney, Scotland, May 2003 - click for larger image

The Atlantic Puffin breeds on the coasts of north-western Europe, Iceland, Greenland and eastern North America.

It is found in its breeding colonies from about April to August. It breeds on coasts and islands. Where the ground is normally frozen it will nest in crevices on inaccessible cliffs but it seems to prefer burrows in grass covered soil free of frost in the breeding season. (See photo 2) The guano produces a distinctive grassy flora. Some of these breeding colonies can be very large with 50,000 pairs not uncommon. The first two photos were taken at Castle o' Burrian, Westray, Orkney where the colony is relatively small.

Once fledged, the young Puffin leaves the nest, almost always at night and flies straight out to sea. From this point on it is independent of its parents.

Puffin, Westray, Orkney, Scotland, May 2003 - click for larger image

Outside of the breeding season Atlantic Puffins spend all their time at sea and it may be two years before a young Puffin returns to land.

They feed mainly on fish caught close to the surface and sand-eels are a great favourite. They can catch several fish in a single dive and, when feeding young, they stack them crosswise in the bill (see photo 4) and fly back to the burrow.

Puffin, Farne Islands, England, June 2003 - click for larger image The Atlantic Puffin is unmistakable but at a distance and when flying it can be difficult to separate from other members of the auk family and is often seen flying with groups of Guillemot and/or Razorbill.

The generic name Fratercula comes from the Latin for a friar and reflects the black and white colouring and hooded appearance of this charming wee bird.

Puffin, Farne Islands, England, June 2003 - click for larger image
Puffin, Farne Islands, England, June 2003 - click for larger image
Puffin, Unst, Shetland, Scotland, May 2004 - click for larger image
Puffin, North Rona, Scotland, May 2005 - click for larger image
Puffin, North Rona, Scotland, May 2005 - click for larger image
Puffin, North Rona, Scotland, May 2005 - click for larger image
Puffin, Sula Sgeir, Scotland, May 2005 - click for larger image
Previous Page Back to Index Next Page

If you do not see a menu on the left, you may have arrived at this page from another site. Please click Home to get to my main page.