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Friday, June 10, 2016

Atlantic Puffin

Photo Credit: Richard Bartz
Looking like a relative of a penguin, or a marine version of the parrot, the squat Atlantic puffin is, in fact, related to neither family, it is a species of auk.

The puffin's best-known feature, it's colorful beak, is used to attract mates. After breeding season ends, it changes to a dull gray color and becomes smaller in size. The puffin is also known as the sea parrot, and, although it looks awkward on land, it is perfectly adapted to its environment.

Atlantic puffins live in the cold waters of the Arctic, often hundreds of miles from land. They are most often seen singly or in pairs.

In spring, they come ashore and gather in huge groups to breed. Although they prefer to dig their burrows in steep, grassy slopes, they may tunnel under boulder debris at the foot of steep cliffs.

During the summer, there is a constant stream of puffins flying back and forth between their burrows on the cliffs and their fishing grounds. Breeding success may depend on how far the puffins have to fly to find food for themselves and their hungry chicks.

The puffin's favorite food is the sand eel, which it catches by diving down into the water at great speeds. Its wings enable the puffin to swim to great depths.

Did you know?
  • The puffin can swim and fly very quickly, but because its legs are positioned so far back on its body, it often crashes while landing in strong winds. 
  • At it preens, the puffin take oil from a gland near its tail and applies it to its feathers to keep them waterproof. 
  • The puffin makes soft growling or purring noises.

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