Atlantic Puffins inhabit rocky islands in the North Atlantic, strutting about their breeding colonies, circling the islands with rapid wing beats, diving to capture small fish, or simply bobbing around in nearby waters. With its black-and-white "tuxedo," upright posture, comical behavior, and large, multicolored bill, this smallest of puffins, called the "clown of the sea," universally delights birders and tourists alike.
On the Menu
Atlantic Puffins can dive 200 feet, "flying" underwater, with tail and feet spread to aid steering as they pursue small schooling fish to catch and carry back to their chicks. Adults consume their own food under water; this may include crustaceans, mollusks, and marine worms. However, relatively little is known about the diet of adult puffins.
Home Sweet Home
Atlantic Puffins are found on open waters and small offshore islands from Maine to points north, and across the North Atlantic to Brittany. Most colonies breed on treeless rocky offshore islands where they can excavate nesting burrows or nest under boulders. Worldwide, most breed in Iceland; in North America, over half the population breeds in Newfoundland. Between breeding seasons, Atlantic Puffins head for the high seas and remain offshore.
How Am I Doing?
North American Atlantic Puffin populations have, since the early 1900s, rebounded from near devastation, and are currently growing.
Help from Audubon
In the Gulf of Maine, Audubon’s Project Puffin has led the successful recovery of breeding colonies at Machias Seal Island, Petit Manan National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), Eastern Egg Rock, Seal Island NWR, and Matinicus Rock.
Atlantic Puffins can store multiple small fish crosswise in their bills as they swim and keep them held firmly as they fly to their burrows to deliver this food to their chicks.