Vulnerability: vulnerable (population decreasing)
Identification: easy (characteristic beak)
Monitoring: easy (in colonies)
What is it?
The Atlantic puffin is an iconic species with a colorful and very wide orange beak. The beak is dark grey at the base and has yellow stripes. The legs are bright orange, as well as the circle around the eye. These colors are more muted during the winter. Otherwise, the plumage is the typical auk black and white. The upper parts are black except for a white face, and the underparts are white. The body is round and stout, the size medium medium-sized (28-30cm in length). The wings are relatively short (wingspan of 47 to 63cm) and they move fast in flight.
Where is it?
The Atlantic Puffin breeds in colonies on coasts from northeastern Canada to northwestern France, including around Iceland, in western Greenland and a small part of eastern Greenland, Great Britain, the Faroe Islands, Svalbard, and northern Fennoscandia. It is not found in the Baltic sea. Outside of the breeding season, it is found exclusively at sea, and it is rare to see it except from ships.
- Almost all of the puffin colonies in Iceland have seen a decline in population in the last ten years. It has been found that climate change is affecting puffin prey items such as the Lesser sand eel Ammodytes tobianus. This small elongated fish is also a important prey for other seabird species such as Arctic terns Sterna paradisaea.
- Puffin hunting is allowed in the Faroe Islands and Iceland, where smoked puffin meat is considered a delicacy. They are caught by hand in triangular nets with long poles.
- Pictures by Cécile Chauvat
- BirdLife International (2022) Species factsheet: Fratercula arctica. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 25/02/2022.
- Boag, David; Alexander, Mike (1995). The Puffin. London: Blandford. ISBN 0-7137-2596-6.
- Kyzer, L. (2020). Fewer Puffins Nesting at Two Major Breeding Grounds. Iceland Review. https://www.icelandreview.com/nature-travel/fewer-puffins-nesting-at-two-major-breeding-grounds/