5 Things you (probably) didn’t know about Puffins

1: Not all puffins have brightly coloured rainbow beaks 

Although the Atlantic puffin is the most famous of the puffins it is not the only puffin in the world.

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Captive Tufted Puffin at Living Coasts, Torquay 

There are 3 species of puffin in the genus Fratercula: the Atlantic Puffin, the Tufted puffin and the Horned puffin. Although all of them have orange beaks during breeding period they’re no match for our rainbow beaked favourite. 

Puffins are also closely related to guillemots, razorbills and little auks, none of which share the orange bill.  

2: They spend most of their lives at sea 

Puffins are a Pelagic species meaning they spend most of their time at sea only coming to land to breed.

After a puffling (yes a puffling that’s the correct term for a young puffin) leaves the burrow it can spend between 3 and 5 years out at seas only returning to land once they are ready to breed and have secured a mate.

Thankfully they have a taste for fish and have evolved to be able to drink sea water. The salt content is absorbed by a pair of salt glands above their eyes and excreted from their nostrils.

3: They mate for life 

Puffins are strictly monogamous and although solitary for the majority of the year with meet up with the same mate each year for live. The exception being when one member of the pair does not return to roost the remaining individual will be forced to find enough mate but researchers have observed that if a mate returns after a couple of years of separate any new bonds that have been formed will be broken and the original pair will return to monogamy with each other.  

4: Puffin male make great dads

Puffins provide biparential care and although recent studies have shown that males spend more time guarding and maintaining the nest whilst females are more involved in the incubation and feeding of chicks incubation responsibilities are shared between both parents. Breeding males even have a bold brood patch on their undersides to enhance heat transfer from their blood supply to provide warmth for the egg. Once the chick has hatched both parents bring back small fish for the puffling until it is old enough to leave the burrow. 

5: You don’t have to go all the way to Iceland to see them

Although 60% of the world’s population of Atlantic puffins nest in Iceland you don’t have to travel that far to see them with nesting sites on the Shetland Islands, Wales and Northeast Canada. 

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