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Atlantic Puffin

Atlantic Puffin Facts

Size 10-12 in (26-29 cm); 1-1.5 in (3-4 cm) (bill)
Speed Up to 55 mph (88 km/h) (short distances)
Weight 0.8-1.7 lb (380-780 g)
Lifespan 15-25 years
Food Fish, shrimps, mollusks
Predators Cats, ermine
Habitat North Atlantic, Arctic ocean
Order Charadriiformes
Family Auks
Scientific name Fratercula arctica
Characteristics Short, curved, colorful bill

Main Characteristics

The Atlantic puffin belongs to the family of the auks and lives on the open sea of colder regions such as North America, Greenland and Iceland most of the time.

Atlantic Puffin Photo: Arnoud Quanjer/Shutterstock


Is it a penguin? Atlantic Puffins could indeed be mistaken for a rare penguin species. They have a black and white plumage and walk upright like the little fellows in their tailcoats. Yet, their bills resemble those of parrots. This is why they are also called “sea parrots”.


Atlantic Puffin Photo: Matt Elliott/Shutterstock

Anatomy and Appearance


In summer, Atlantic Puffins have an extraordinary orange-colored bill. During the winter, their bill is grey-brown.


They Carry Up to 60 Fish in Their Bills

The Atlantic puffin literally likes to bite off more than it can swallow. Even if it is already carrying several fish around in its triangular bill, it manages to capture even more of them. The trick is to use the tongue and press the fish against the inwardly serrated edges of the bill, which hold the fish like little fishhooks. This allows the Atlantic puffin to continue hunting and open the bill without losing the fish it has caught already. An Atlantic puffin in Canada holds the record with the largest number of fish in its bill – it carried around 61 fish at the same time.

Atlantic Puffin Photo: Mark Caunt/Shutterstock

Senses and Abilities


The Atlantic puffin can dive as deep as 200-230 feet (60-70 meters) and practically spirals down using its little wings just like propellers. The webbing between its toes lets the Atlantic puffin use its feet as effective steering paddles.



Atlantic Puffins can reach up to 55 mph (88 km/h) when flying and flap their wings 400 times per minute. How often can you imitate their movement with your arms within one minute’s time? Have a try!

Atlantic Puffin Photo: Tsuguliev/Shutterstock


During the breeding season the Atlantic puffins form colonies of several thousand animals. If two Atlantic puffins have become a pair, they stay together for the rest of their lives. After mating the Atlantic puffins dig a cave into the earth that can be 36 inch (90 cm) deep and is being used again year after year. They lay just one egg into the cave each time. The little bird hatches after 40 days of breeding.

Fun Facts

Famous Birds

The Atlantic puffin is the official bird of the Canadian provinces Newfoundland and Labrador. This is also the home of the popular breed of dogs with the same name.

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