Atlantic Puffin | Overview, Facts, Diet & Habitat

Atlantic Puffin

The Atlantic Puffin is a seabird native to the North Atlantic known for its colorful beak and ability to fly and swim adeptly.

Atlantic Puffin Overview


Atlantic puffins are distinctive seabirds with black upperparts, white underparts, and a colorful facial pattern during breeding season. They have a robust body, a unique triangular beak, and striking orange webbed feet.

Their eyes feature a white "eyebrow" stripe, and they stand upright on land, appearing almost penguin-like. Puffins are relatively small, measuring about 25 to 30 centimeters (10 to 12 inches) in length.

Origins And Evolution

Atlantic puffins belong to the family Alcidae and are part of the order Charadriiformes. They evolved from seabird ancestors and are thought to have originated around 30 million years ago.

Over time, puffins developed adaptations suited for a life at sea, including their distinctive beaks for catching and holding fish. Puffin species like the Atlantic puffin (Fratercula arctica) have found their niche in North Atlantic coastal regions, where they breed and forage for fish to sustain their populations.

Behavior and Lifestyle

Atlantic puffins exhibit fascinating behaviors and a unique lifestyle. They are highly skilled divers and use their wings to "fly" underwater, pursuing small fish. Puffins are colonial breeders, nesting in burrows or rocky crevices on coastal cliffs in the North Atlantic.

They form strong pair bonds and often return to the same nesting site each year. Puffins are diurnal, active during the day, and spend much of their time at sea, only coming ashore to breed and rear their chicks. They communicate with a variety of calls and engage in courtship displays during the breeding season.

Scientific Classification

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Aves
  • Order: Charadriiformes
  • Family: Alcidae
  • Genus: Fratercula
  • Species: Fratercula arctica


  • North Atlantic Ocean
  • Coastal regions of North America
  • Coastal regions of Europe
  • Northern parts of the Atlantic Ocean, including Iceland and Greenland
  • Islands and cliffs along the coastlines of these regions

Fast Facts

  • Name: Atlantic Puffin
  • Scientific Name: Fratercula arctica
  • Habitat: Coastal cliffs and islands in the North Atlantic Ocean, often found in regions of Europe and North America.
  • Diet: Mainly small fish, such as sand eels and herring.
  • Physical Features: Distinctive black and white coloration, colorful beak during breeding season, orange webbed feet, relatively small size (25-30 cm or 10-12 inches).
  • Nocturnal: No, they are diurnal (active during the day).
  • Solitary: While they breed in colonies, Atlantic puffins are not solitary and are often found in groups during the breeding season.
  • Unique Order: They belong to the order Charadriiformes, which includes other shorebirds and seabirds.
  • Lifespan: Around 20 years in the wild.
  • Conservation Status: Atlantic puffins are considered "vulnerable" due to threats like habitat loss, climate change, and overfishing affecting their food sources.
  • Fun Facts: Atlantic puffins can dive underwater at speeds of up to 60 km/h (37 mph), use their wings to "fly" underwater, and are skilled fliers with impressive aerial acrobatics. Despite their clumsy appearance on land, they are excellent swimmers and fliers.

Atlantic Puffin Physical Characteristics

  • Color: Black and white.
  • Skin Type: Feather-covered skin.
  • Top Speed: Around 60 km/h (37 mph).
  • Lifespan: Around 20 years in the wild.
  • Weight: Approximately 300-500 grams (0.66-1.1 pounds).
  • Length: Typically 25-30 cm (10-12 inches).
  • Age of Sexual Maturity: Usually around 4-5 years.
  • Age of Weaning: Around 6 weeks of age.

Atlantic puffin FAQS

What is an Atlantic puffin?

The Atlantic puffin is a seabird known for its distinctive appearance, with its black and white plumage, colorful beak, and orange webbed feet.

Where can Atlantic puffins be found?

Atlantic puffins are found along the coastlines and islands of the North Atlantic Ocean, including regions of Europe and North America.

Why are puffins called "puffins"?

The name "puffin" is believed to come from the bird's Latin name "Fratercula,".

What do Atlantic puffins eat?

Atlantic puffins primarily eat small fish, such as sand eels and herring, which they catch by diving underwater.

Do Atlantic puffins fly?

Yes, puffins are skilled fliers, using their wings for both flying in the air and "flying" underwater while swimming.

Are Atlantic puffins social birds?

Atlantic puffins breed in colonies, and while they interact during the breeding season, they are not as social as some other bird species.

How do puffins build their nests?

Puffins often nest in burrows they dig into soil or in rocky crevices on cliffs, using their bills and feet to excavate.

Are Atlantic puffins endangered?

Atlantic puffins are considered "vulnerable" due to threats like habitat loss and climate change.

Can puffins swim?

Yes, puffins are excellent swimmers, using their wings to "fly" through the water while hunting for fish.

Do puffins make any sounds?

Puffins make various vocalizations, including a range of growls, coos, and cackling calls, especially during the breeding season.

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