The Atlantic Puffin (Fratercula arctica) is widely known for its large pale cheeks, signature colorful bill, and black and white bodies. While 26-29 cm long, they only weigh 320-480g. The puffin moults while at sea in the winter, but maintains the bright plumage in the spring and summer. The triangular beak and legs are bright orange.
The Atlantic puffin primarily resides around the North Atlantic Ocean and breeds along the coast of northwest Europe, the subarctic, and eastern North America. Despite its large distribution, Iceland houses more than 60% (8-10 million) of the global population of puffins.
Living on open sea most of the year, the Atlantic puffin dives as deep as 200 feet to hunt herring, hake, capelin, and sand eels. Puffins nest in burrows and cliff edges close to the sea after feeding on fish and marine invertebrates in either the North Atlantic and Arctic ocean.
Puffins breed from April to mid-August at 3-5 years. Their beaks and plumage brighten in the spring and summer for courtship and breeding. Puffins normally mate for life. When they return from sea, they engage in casual flirtations before returning to their annual nest site and partner. Some puffins exhibit the ritual of billing- two birds tapping their beaks together.
Status and Conservation:
The current population is estimated to be about 4,770,000-5,780,000 pairs and 12-14 million globally. However, the population is estimated to decrease by 50-79% from 2000-2065. The population decline is through the impact of invasive species, pollution, overfishing, and climate change. Rising sea temperatures cause food shortages which decrease breeding success.