Bird Bytes – Part One: The Puffin – Clown of The Sea

The First in a Factual and Pictorial Series about Birds.

A surprising number of people wrote to me after I’d published ‘The Parrot of the Sea’

The Parrot of the Sea 

asking for more information about the astonishing little puffin, that it prompted not only this article about puffins – but a number of short articles about many birds I’m fond of.

I hope you enjoy this first in the series of Bird Bytes.


Atlantic puffins spend most of their lives at sea, but return to land to form breeding colonies during spring and summer.

Atlantic puffins have penguin-like colouring but they sport a colourful beak that has led some to dub them the “sea parrot.” The beak fades to a drab gray during the winter and blooms with colour again in the spring—suggesting that it may be attractive to potential mates.

These birds live most of their lives at sea, resting on the waves when not swimming. They are excellent swimmers that use their wings to stroke underwater with a flying motion. They steer with rudder-like webbed feet and can dive to depths of 200 feet (61 meters), though they usually stay underwater for only 20 or 30 seconds. Puffins typically hunt small fish like herring or sand eels.

In the air, puffins are surprisingly fleet flyers. By flapping their wings up to 400 times per minute they can reach speeds of 55 miles (88 kilometres) an hour.

Atlantic puffins land on North Atlantic seacoasts and islands to form breeding colonies each spring and summer. Iceland is the breeding home of perhaps 60 percent of the world’s Atlantic puffins.

The birds often select precipitous, rocky cliff tops to build their nests, which they line with feathers or grass. Females lay a single egg, and both parents take turns incubating it. When a chick hatches, its parents take turns feeding it by carrying small fish back to the nest in their relatively spacious bills.

Puffin couples often reunite at the same burrow site each year. It is unclear how these birds navigate back to their home grounds. They may use visual reference points, smells, sounds, the Earth’s magnetic fields—or perhaps even the stars.


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Published in: Pets


RSSComments: 22  |  Post a Comment
  1. Great information, I love these Puffins

  2. These puffins are so cute. You said the orange part of the beat might be for mating, f i were a puffin I would be attracted =) Seriously, I really like these birds and I am looking forward to the next in the series. Very good writing, too!

  3. Puffins are amazing.

  4. beautiful birds, great share

  5. Well done thank you for sharing.

  6. very nice article :)

  7. Fascinating – great read – look forward to the next one

  8. and hope to see many more articles on the topic soon…write on girl. Did you ten just now. cheers

  9. Fascinating information.

  10. Awesome share, thank you Shiela.

  11. Puffins are interesting little birds.

  12. Detailed and very pleasent article, with wonderful photos of adorable Puffins! Well written:) Thanks Shiela!

  13. The puffins are so cute!

  14. was hoping to see part two. soon please

  15. where is our shiela.?

  16. Nice posting and thanks for share

  17. They are so cute birds.

  18. love the pics, great article

  19. Really love the bird pictures. Great post as always

  20. Brilliant and here’s to so many more by you.

  21. The puffins are really cute

  22. Lovely birds.

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