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Atlantic Puffin


Atlantic Puffin - Fratercula arctica

Atlantic Puffin - Fratercula arctica

Photo © Franziska Lang / Shutterstock.
The Atlantic puffin (Fratercula arctica) is a small palegic seabird belonging to the same family as murres and auklets. The Atlantic puffin has a black back, neck, and crown. Its belly is white and its face varies between white and light grey depending on the time of year and the age of the bird. The Atlantic puffin has a distinct bright orange wedge of a bill and during the breeding season it has more distinct coloration with yellow lines that outline a black area at the base of the bill.

During the breeding season, the Atlantic puffin forms nesting colonies along the coast of the North Atlantic. The birds nest in crevaces among rocks or by burrowing in loose earth. Each mating pair typically lays a single egg between June and July and incubate it for about 42 days. After the egg hatches, the parents care for the young bird until it fledges and sets off to sea on its own, usually under cover of darkness.

Atlantic puffins do not return to land during the non-breeding season. Instead they remain at sea, either flying, swimming, or riding the waves, braving all types of weather until the breeding season when they return to their coastal nesting grounds. To catch their food, Atlantic puffins dive into the water and use their wings to maneouver into position to catch their prey.

  • Mass: 490 g
  • Length: 28-30 cm
  • Diet: small fish, mollusks, crustaceans
  • Breeding Season: April - June
  • Clutch Size: 1 egg
  • Time to Hatching: 42 days
  • Time to Fledging: 38-44 days
  • Sexual Maturity: 5 years


The range of the Atlantic puffin extends from Canada, the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and Nova Scotia in the west to Greenland and Iceland and finally to Northern Scandinavia, Northern Russia, and Ireland in the east. Atlantic puffins spend their summers on rocky cliffs along the North Atlantic coast. During winter, the birds are rarely seen near land and instead spend most of their time flying over the open ocean.


  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Aves
  • Order: Charadriiformes
  • Class: Alcidae
  • Genus: Fratercula
  • Species: Fratercula arctica
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