Thursday Trivia: Puffins - Oceana USA
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December 8, 2011

Thursday Trivia: Puffins


Puffins are curious and charismatic birds that live in the North Atlantic ocean, where their orange beaks and feet make for a colorful sight.

Atlantic puffins can swim as well as fly. Like a plane taxiing for take-off, a puffin runs along the surface of the water to gather speed for flight.

Puffins spend the summer in clifftop colonies and they winter at sea. Once a year, the puffins moult, and are left temporarily flightless.

Each year, Atlantic puffins return to breeding grounds, where they perform rituals like bill-knocking and marching in front of burrows. Burrows are sometimes re-used between seasons. Each pair of Atlantic puffins incubates a single egg, and when the chick hatches, they bring it small whole fish, which they are able to carry by using their tongues to hold the fish to the roof of the beak. Chicks are fed for six weeks, then abandoned; after several days the chicks leave to hunt for themselves.

Atlantic puffins currently have large and fairly healthy populations. However, they have been targeted by human hunting for meat and feathers, and they are also vulnerable to attacks by gulls, rats, cats, dogs and foxes. One of the most important risks they face is overfishing of species like sand eel and capelin, which Atlantic puffins rely on for food. Puffins are also vulnerable to the effects of oil spills.