Puffins are easy to differentiate from their close cousins, the
Horned Puffin, despite the overlapping
range. Obvious, loose tufts of yellow feathers are a distinguishing
feature, particularly in the summer months. They have a much wider
breeding range than Horned Puffins, with
nesting colonies found as far south as the coastline of northern California.
Both species scatter widely across the northern Pacific during the winter
Habitat: Breeds on offshore islands in the north
Pacific, usually on the tops of cliffs or on grassy slopes. Some birds
during breeding season can also be found far from shore in the open Pacific.
After the breeding season, birds disperse widely and are typically found on the
Diet: Fish makes up a majority of the diet, with
capelin and sand lance particularly preferred. They will also feed on
crustaceans and mollusks.
Behavior: Food is acquired by swimming underwater and capturing fish and other prey with
their beaks. Both adults will forage for fish for their young, sometimes
foraging far from the nesting colony and not returning for a day or two.
Nesting burrows are often re-used by mating pairs for multiple years.
Nesting: Tufted Puffins often use islands
with grassy areas and loose soil for nesting, and will dig nesting burrows up to
8 feet deep. Other nesting areas sometimes include rock crevices or under
a bush in heavy vegetation.
Song: Tufted Puffins are generally a quiet species.
Birds at sea are silent, while birds at nesting colonies are generally
restricted to occasional low groans.
Migration: After the breeding season, most birds
disperse far out to sea. Birds in the northern part of the range,
particularly those in the Bering Sea, likely move south during the coldest
Conservation Status:Breeding populations in the southern part of the range,
particularly in northern California, have declined sharply, likely in response
to the introduction of predators such as rats to the islands used for breeding.
However, Pacific-wide populations are strong, with an estimate of over 1 million
breeding birds in Alaska.
University's "All About Birds - Tufted Puffin"
eNature.com: Tufted Puffin
Photo Information: June 25th, 2006 - Alaska Sealife
Center, Seward Alaska - Terry Sohl
Additional Photos: Click on the image chips or
text links below for additional, higher-resolution Tufted Puffin photos.