A small auk, puffins are familiar as the ‘clowns’ of the coast with their brightly coloured bills, bumpy landings and waddling walk. Puffins live in burrows in the short grass at the top of cliffs and feed on fish, such as sandeels, which they catch at sea by diving beneath the surface and using their wings to swim in pursuit. For most of the year puffins are out at sea, returning to land to breed. During the breeding season, displays of bill-knocking and ritualised walking will result in mating pairs producing one egg, which is laid at the end of the burrow. The chick remains in the burrow until it is independent and ready to go to sea.
Unmistakeable: black above with a white belly and cheeks, massive, multicoloured bill and orange, webbed feet.
Length: 26-29cm Wingspan: 55cm Weight: 400g Average Lifespan: 18 years
Classified in the UK as an Amber List species under the Birds of Conservation Concern review.
Nests on cliffs and islands at scattered locations around the coast of Scotland, northern England, south-west England and Wales.
When to see
March – August
The puffin is also known as the ‘sea parrot’ due to its brightly coloured bill. Part of their breeding plumage, this bill is shed in winter. It is serrated to hold fish in place; one puffin was recorded having 83 small sandeels in its bill!