Common puffinPosted on August 27, 2018 - Last modified: September 17, 2018
common puffin (Fratercula arctica), atlantic puffin or more commonly puffin to dry, it is a water bird that spend most of their lives in the sea, but return to land to form breeding colonies during spring and summer.
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The Atlantic puffin has a color pattern similar to that of penguins but they have a colorful beak that has led some to call them «sea parrots«. The bill fades to a drab gray during the winter and blooms again with color in the spring, suggesting that it may be attractive to potential mates.
These puffins are short, stocky, with black upperparts and white underparts. His cheeks are white. They have large, triangular, parrot-shaped beaks, which in the breeding season are bright orange with a yellow-bordered blue spot on the rear half. After the breeding season, they lose some of their horny bill plates and molt as well. The winter plumage is similar, but the faces are largely dark.
Swimming and flying
These birds live most of their life in the sea, resting in the waves when they are not swimming. They are excellent swimmers who use their wings to stroke underwater in a flying motion. They move with their webbed rudder feet and can dive to depths of 60 meters, although they generally remain underwater for only 20 to 30 seconds. Puffins often hunt small fish such as herring or eels.
In the air, puffins are surprisingly fleet fliers. Flapping their wings up to 400 times per minute they can reach speeds of 80 kilometers per hour.
The common puffin walks upright, lives in colonies and is very curious and tame. They make little noise, purring in flight, low growls and moans as they nest. They soar above the water like ducks and must run across the surface of the water in order to move through the air.
During the summer, common puffins reside on the rocky cliffs of the North Atlantic and northern Europe. They winter far out to sea in deep, icy waters and are rarely seen in sight of land until March.
For most of the year, the common puffin lives in the open ocean, ranging from the eastern coast of Canada and the northern United States to the western coast of Europe and northern Russia. 60% of the world's puffins live near Iceland.
It is piscivorous, which means that the diet of the common puffin is based mainly on fish. They swim by flapping their wings as if they are flying through water and using their legs to maneuver. There they hunt herring, hake and eels. They complete their meals by drinking salt water.
In their natural habitat, puffins can live for about 20 years. Its main predator is the large black-backed gull, which can capture a puffin in mid-flight or swoop down on a puffin on the ground. Herring gulls are also a threat because they steal fish from puffins (sometimes directly from their mouths) and remove puffin chicks or eggs from their nests.
They are often attacked and killed by large seagulls, rats, cats, dogs, and black-backed foxes, and are easily shot for food; therefore, populations close to civilizations soon disappear.
The common puffin lands on the shores and islands of the North Atlantic to form breeding colonies each spring and summer. Iceland is the reproductive home to perhaps 60 percent of the world's puffins. Birds often select the rocky and rugged tops of cliffs to build their nests, which they cover with feathers or grass.
April to mid-August is the puffin breeding season. When a puffin is between 3 and 5 years old, it chooses a mate in the sea to mate with for life.
Once on land, the puffin pairs meet inside the colony. Some pairs exhibit a special behavior where the two birds rub their beaks together. This often draws an excited crowd of other puffins to watch.
Puffins create burrows of about 90 cm in rocky cliffs, either in the ground or between rocks. Couples often return to the same burrow year after year. At the back of the burrow, they build a nest filled with grasses, algae, and feathers. After the female lays a single egg, both parents take turns incubating the egg for about 40 days.
Puffin pairs often meet in the same burrow spot each year. It is not clear how these birds return to their places of origin. They can use visual landmarks, smells, sounds, Earth's magnetic fields, or even stars.
The chick stays in the burrow until it can fly. The young puffin uses a grooming area in front of the burrow, away from the nest, to keep clean. You can't risk getting your feathers dirty and ruining the waterproof protection they provide. After 45 days, the chick comes out of the burrow and spends 3 to 5 years at sea learning about foraging sites and choosing a mate.
State of conservation
With 6 million specimens alive today, the Atlantic puffin are not considered endangered by the IUCN Red List. But some populations have been drastically reduced. Puffin colonies are threatened by overfishing, causing a shortage of food for the adults to feed their young.
Oil spills also pose a danger. The oil not only destroys the waterproofing of puffins, it also makes them sick when they are cleaned from their feathers.
Finally, global warming negatively affects the common puffin, which adapts to living in waters between 0 and 20 ° C and catching fish that also adapt to those colder temperatures. Global warming also causes sea level rise, which could flood these birds' breeding grounds.
Relationship with humans
The common puffin is a very trusting animal, it is not surprising that it comes close to prying around humans, which has led to its death many times.
Sven (also know as The Mighty Sven) is the tritagonist of Happy Feet 2. He is a male puffin who is mistaken for a penguin and ran away from humans because he thought humans were going to eat him. He is idolized by all the penguins Adélie and Lovelace when he gets caught in an oil spill in the Arctic and flies south.