Atlantic Puffin Fratercula arctica
Size: 12.5 inches (32 cm)
Abundance:• Common to Uncommon
• Huge, brightly color bill, primarily orange and yellow
• White face and underparts
• Black collar
• Dark upperparts
• Sexes similar
• Immature similar to adult nonbreeding but bill is smaller and darker
• Medium sized alcid that dives for food from water surface
• Very large bill
• Black crown, nape, throat, and upperparts
• White breast, belly, and undertail coverts
• Red legs and feet
• Breeds on rocky islands and coasts in northeastern United States and eastern Canada
• Pelagic in winter south to mid-Atlantic states
• Adult breeding
• Extremely colorful bill
• White, triangular face patch
• Adult nonbreeding
• Bill somewhat duller
• Gray, triangular face patch
• The Atlantic Puffin is the only puffin within its range. Its huge, colorful bill is diagnostic. Immatures can look vaguely similar to Razorbills but have a grayish face and lack the white secondary bar. Murres are slimmer-billed.
Habitat: Pelagic (opean ocean). Breeds along Atlantic coast on coastal islands, rocky cliffs. Gather in rafts near islands or cliffs where they will nest, to court. Often seen carrying many fish in its bill back to nest site. Winters in the open Atlantic, farther out and in deeper waters than Murres and Razorbills.
Breeding: Earthen slopes and rocky areas on offshore islands. 1 brood. Mating system is monogamous.
Displays: Courtship including swimming in crowded groups, males rising, flapping wings, jerking heads past vertical in "head flick." Pair engage bills, then bill and neck.
Nest: Burrow in open or under rock in loose soil; tunnel usually about 3 feet, ending in chamber. Crevice often in cliff or among rocks. Usually lined with grass, leaves, feathers, occasionally unlined. Male builds nest.
Eggs: One. White/cream, occasionally faintly marked with lilac. 2.5" (63 mm).
Chick development: Both sexes incubate. Incubation takes 39-45 days. Development is semiprecocial (mobile, remain at nest, fed). Young are able to fly after 38-44 (34-74) days. Both sexes tend young.
Diet: Includes crustaceans, squid. Chicks fed almost exclusively fish. Usually forage near colony, but occasionally over 10 miles away, usually at depths less than 100 feet, rarely to 200 feet (33 fathoms).
Conservation: Pelagic in winter off North America. Serious decline in 1800s from commercial egging and hunting, continued in 1900s mostly in s; limited recent recovery in n. Reintroduced in Maine.
Notes: Large colonies, those on cliffs smaller. Usually breed at 5-6, occasionally 3 years. Return to colony 3-4 weeks prior to laying. Strong nest site fidelity and long-term pair bond. Laying synchrony is high in groups of adjacent burrows. Incubating bird holds egg against brood patch with wing. Chick brooded 6-7 days; fledge at night. Bill develops bright plates prior to breeding. Formerly known as Common Puffin.
Charles Sibley's Birds of the World: Fratercula arctica ATLANTIC PUFFIN. Pelagic and coastal; breeds on rocky slopes and burrows on coasts and islands. From Greenland, Iceland, Faroe Is., Spitsbergen, Bear I. and Novaya Zemlya s to British Isles, nw France, n,w Scandinavia and nw Russia on the Kola Pen. From nc Labrador s to se Quebec, e Newfoundland, sw New Brunswick and Seal I. and Matinicus Rock off e Maine; Digges I. off nw Quebec. Winters mostly at sea and along coasts in n Atlantic Ocean s to Virginia, e Atlantic islands, nw Africa and w Mediterranean Sea.