7 Things You Didn’t Know About the Puffin

Colorful, charismatic, and downright quirky creatures – here are 7 things you didn't know about the puffin!

Sep 1, 2023By Lauren Rey
things you did not know about the puffin

Found mostly in cool, northern coastal areas, the puffin is known for its colorful appearance, comical way of walking, and a hearty appetite for fish. The puffin’s unique characteristics have earned them nicknames like “sea parrots” and “clowns of the sea.”

Capturing the hearts of many around the world, puffins are so popular, there is an entire tourism industry for them. Every year, countless tourists flock to puffin nesting sites along the Atlantic with the hopes of catching a glimpse of them. Whether you’re planning an upcoming puffin-watching expedition or not, here are some fun facts on these spirited little seabirds!

7. Puffins Are Fast Flyers

puffin flying
Photo Credit: Getty Images/Canva

Faster than most seabirds, puffins can reach speeds of up to 55 miles per hour. They accomplish this by flapping their wings at an astounding 400 beats per minute. This means while they are a favorite among tourists to watch, puffins are notoriously hard to capture on camera while in flight. If you’re hoping to catch a shot of a puffin mid-flight, a high-speed camera is a must!

6. They Spend Most of Their Lives at Sea

puffin at sea
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Some people speculate that the reason puffins walk so comically on land is that they are not used to it. These birds spend most of their lives at sea and only come ashore to breed and nest. In general, puffins spend about eight months out of the year at sea.

During their time at sea, puffins spend their days floating on the surface and having an all-you-can-eat buffet of fish. They’re also excellent swimmers, using their webbed feet as rudders while their waterproof feathers keep them protected from the cold water. Around April, they’ll return to land to begin the breeding and nesting season. Come August, they’ll once again return to open waters for another migration cycle.

5. Puffins Are Monogamous

puffin couple
Photo Credit: Getty Images/Canva

Puffins are one of the few members of the animal kingdom that remain monogamous. They not only tend to return to the same nesting spot each year and mate for life, but they’ll also follow similar migration patterns. Some research shows puffin couples even remaining close during the winter migration when other birds tend to venture off on their own.

During nesting season, both puffin parents take turns incubating the egg and rearing the chick once hatched. Puffins are some of nature’s best parents!

4. Puffins Can Dive to Extraordinary Depths

diving puffin
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Puffins spend most of their time fishing and are incredible divers. They can reach depths of up to 200 feet! They’re also incredibly fast, often reaching these depths in under 30 seconds. They use their wings to swim and often appear as if they are “flying” underwater. Once they return to the surface, they are often spotted with a beakful of fish, indicating a successful dive!

3. Baby Puffins Are Called Pufflings

Photo Credit: Birdfact.com

As if they couldn’t be adorable enough, baby puffins are known as pufflings! Once hatched, they spend about six weeks in the nest before taking flight on their own. Pufflings grow quickly with a steady diet of fresh fish brought to them by their parents. While they look similar to their adult counterparts when they are born, pufflings don’t get their signature colorful beaks and feet until they mature and are ready to breed.

2. Puffins Eat Around 40 Fish Per Day

puffin fishing
Photo Credit: Getty Images/Canva

Puffins eat a ton of fish! In fact, they need about 40 fish per day to stay healthy. They can often be seen leaving the water with large mouthfuls of herring and sprat. Their beaks have tiny barbs that hold the fish in place as they “collect” them. Once they’ve successfully loaded up their beaks, they’ll return to shore or the cliffs to eat or feed their young.

While the average puffin catches less than a dozen fish at a time, one impressive and apparently very hungry puffin in Britain was found holding a record-breaking 62 fish!

1. Iceland is the World’s Puffin Capital

iceland puffin colony
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Iceland is famous for its puffins, in fact, it’s home to approximately 60% of the world’s puffin population and has been called the “puffin-watching capital of the world. Most Icelanders will tell you the puffin is their unofficial mascot. Its likeness is prominently displayed on signage and artwork, and entire shops are dedicated to memorabilia of these famous Icelandic animals.

While puffins can be seen throughout different regions of the country, one area in particular, Vestmannaeyjar, is home to the world’s largest puffin colony. Visitors and locals alike flock to these cliffs every year for a chance to see the millions (yes, millions!) of puffins that come ashore to breed and nest here.

Lauren Rey
By Lauren Rey

A lover of all animals, Lauren’s background is in the veterinary world, but she is now a content writer on travel, wildlife, and all things pets! She’s based in Florida, but when not writing, she’s usually plotting out a new road trip route with her partner-in-crime. Pickles is a mixed-breed rescue dog that loves hiking, road trips, and Starbucks just as much as her mom does!