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- Area: Atlantic Ocean, North Pole Seas
- Habitat: On the shores of the sea
- Food: Carnivore
- Size: 28cm – 32cm
- Weight: 400 – 800 g
- Speed: 88kph (55mph)
- Colors: Black, white, gray
- Breeding: 1 offspring
- Predators: Fishers, foxes
- It lives in: The colony
- Average mating age: 4 to 5 years
- Special features: Can stay underwater for up to 2 minutes, colored beak.
The scientific name of Puffin birds is “Arctic Fratercula”, the order Charadriiformes, and they live in colonies. People also call them “sea parrots” and that’s because their beak is very beautifully colored. The puffin birds also look like a penguin. They live most of their lives at sea, resting on the waves when they don’t swim. In flight, they wing up to 400 times per minute and can reach almost 90 km/h, according to National Geographic. Puffin lives in the Atlantic Ocean and the North Pole Sea.
It can be found a few tens of kilometers from land, sometimes hundreds of kilometers, alone or in pairs. It is also called the clown of the ocean. It lives most of its time in the water.
On the island of Hilda in Scotland, nearly one million birds are breeding in 3 days. If at present the puffin species are not at risk of extinction, their number is decreasing due to habitat degradation and pollution. The puffin birds were also hunted for meat and eggs, which led to a decrease in population as well.
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Puffin diet and prey
It is a carnivorous daily-eating bird. The puffin feeds on various species of fish like herring, sprat, mollusks, squid, and crustaceans. To obtain food, they sink underwater and swim using their wings. Like many auks, puffins eat both fish and zooplankton but feed their chickens mainly on small marine fish several times a day.
In the warm season during the breeding period, the success of hatching depends on where it finds food. The shorter the distance from the nest, the faster offspring will satisfy their hunger.
It is a bird that does not wait for food, as it will go hunting when it needs to. It uses its wings to propel itself into the water and catch the fish. The diving takes about 20 seconds.
When the puffin needs to gather food for its offspring, it can keep 20 or more fish in the beak, arranged from the base to the top. Being on the sea it can swim with them in the beak without losing any.
The fish are the size of a finger. Although these birds can usually carry 5-25 fish, it is said that a puffin was seen with its beak full of fish. It brought 62 pieces. This behavior is possible through the unique articulation mechanism of their beak, which allows the upper and lower biting edges to meet at any angle.
The enemies of the puffin bird are foxes, seagulls, hawks, and eagles.
Anatomy and appearance
The puffin has a peculiar aspect. The body is brightly colored. On the back it is black, on the belly it is white, and the beak and legs are orange. The legs end with paws just like in ducks. The fingers are joined by a membrane and end at the top with claws. The multicolor beak is thick and strong. The tail and wings are short.
They can fly 10 meters above the water. The reproduction period coincides with the period of shedding. During this period the bird cannot fly, but it can swim, and it has the most brightening plumage. It is said that this is the “wedding costume” of the puffin bird.
The sea parrot is a curious bird, as it was seen looking into the nests of other puffins.
The uropygial glands secrete an oily solution that provides the bird with water protection and impermeability. Sea parrots swim and fly fast. Landing is a little bit harder because their legs are positioned in the back. The end of the landing is on the stomach. They can fly at speed of 80-90km/h over short distances by winging 3-4 hundred times per minute.
- Atlantic puffin – Arctic Fratercula
- Horned puffin — Fratercula corniculata
- Tufted puffin or raised puffin – Fratercula cirrhata
Puffin reproduction and life cycle
Although the puffin spends most of the time in the water, it comes to the shore to mate. Puffin birds often choose rock tops to build their nests. When it comes to reproduction, females lay only one egg and both parents incubate it one at a time. When the offspring comes into the world, it is fed equally by both parents. Every year, couples come together in the same place. It is not known how they get back home, but they do.
During mating, the puffin makes specific striding sounds. It takes place in colonies of tens of thousands of individuals.
Thousands of birds come to the shore to reproduce during this period. The mating takes place in February-April.
The conditions do not allow the construction of a nest on the ground, because there are no trees or high vegetation in the area they live in. So, the puffins build their nests in the ground to be protected against predators, ermines, or foxes, sometimes choosing abandoned rabbit burrows. In the following year, they can use the old nest or dig a new one. The den can be 1-2 meters long, have several exits and the nest is arranged with grass and feathers.
The courtship takes place on the shore. The pair rub their beaks against each other, then the mating takes place, and after they start building the nest. The female lays only one egg in May that is incubated for 40-45 days. The egg is hatched by both partners.
After hatching the offspring remains in the den for half a year. The parents will bring it the food. When they leave the nest, they enter the sea and become independent. They usually leave the den at night to avoid being seen by predators and jump straight into the water.
At this age, puffin chicken doesn’t know how to fly, but it has time to learn. In 4-5 years, it returns back home to mate.
Reproductory maturity is reached at the age of 4-5 years. The life expectancy of the puffin bird is 15-30 years.
Here are some interesting facts about puffin birds:
The beak changes color during the year. In winter it has a gray color, but in spring turns orange.
They are great swimmers. To reach their favorite fish they can sink even up to 60 km deep.
In spring and summer, thousands of birds gather in colonies on the coast and islands of the North Atlantic Ocean to reproduce. They usually mate with the same partner.
They live in the wild for about 20 years.
Their main predators are seagulls.