5 Fun Facts about Puffins
1. A small auk, puffins are familiar as the ‘clowns’ of the coast with their brightly coloured bills, bumpy landings and waddling walk.
2. People frequently think that penguins and puffins are related. Although both birds share a similar black and white feather coloration, penguins belong to the family Spheniscidae, and puffins belong to the family Alcidae.
3. 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 below the surface and using their wings to swim in pursuit of their prey.
4. 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.
5. Despite being small in stature (just 27–28cm in length), puffins are extremely tough, braving storm-tossed seas throughout autumn and winter, out of sight of land.
Where and when to see Puffins
Adults return to their breeding colonies on grassy cliff tops in March and April, departing again in mid-August.
Although more than half of the world’s puffin population breed near Iceland, there are a handful of colonies in the UK. Some of the top places to spot puffins in the UK include Hermaness (Shetland), Lunga (off Mull), Farne Islands (Northumberland) and The Isle of May (Fife). Some RSPB reserves and locations are listed here.
How can we help Puffins?
Half of the UK population of puffins is restricted to just a few sites meaning they are on the Red list. Threatened by falling fish stocks and habitat loss, the survival of puffins and other seabirds depends on a healthy marine environment. The Wildlife Trusts are working with fishermen, researchers, politicians and local people towards a vision of ‘Living Seas’ where marine wildlife thrives. You can find out more here.
Thanks for Reading.
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