Last Reviewed and Updated on July 19, 2022
Puffins are the clowns of the sea. Funny, social, and crafty, these birds are full of surprises. Let’s explore some of the more interesting facts about puffins, birds that are very adept at both flying and diving.
1. There are 3 species of puffins
There are 3 different species of puffins. They do visually differ, but all species have the same characteristics that make this bird so recognizable. They are all puffy, have black and white feathers, and large, brightly colored beaks.
The species are; the Atlantic puffin, the Horned puffin, and the Tufted puffin.
2. Puffins hunt by diving in the water
Their diet consists of fish and zooplankton. Puffins dive into the water to catch their prey.
One of the cool distinct abilities of these birds is their capability to hold multiple fish in their beak at a time.
3. Their beaks change color through the year
The beak of a puffin changes color during the year. Every spring, at the beginning of the mating season, puffin beaks turn a more colorful orange, just in time for the mating season. The color fades in winter.
They also glow under UV light.
4. They shed their bills after the breeding season
When the winter is nearing and the mating season is all over, a puffin will shed the colorful outer layers of its bill. Their bills will therefore be duller in color and smaller.
They also shed the black feathers around their eyes. Think this is weird? Be sure to check our list of most bizarre facts about animals.
5. Their wings are adapted for diving
They can fly, and they can swim and dive. What is more impressive is they are good at it all.
The surface area of the wing is smaller relative to the bird’s weight. This is one of the adaptations for the dual use of the wings.
These birds have waterproof feathers, which makes diving for longer periods of time a lot easier. They swim by flapping their wings like paddles and use their feet to steer (like a rudder).
6. Atlantic puffins were observed to use tools
This is one of the coolest facts about puffins, even though it was documented with only one species (for now). They were observed to use sticks to scratch themselves in separate geographical locations.
7. They are nicknamed the clowns of the sea
Their bulky appearance and clown-like coloration of their face have led to them getting a nickname the “clowns of the sea.” Their awkward walking on land helped as well.
8. Puffin islands are islands where puffins have their breeding sites
Puffins breed in colonies on coasts and islands. Quite a few islands bear this name, and these islands either were or still are breeding sites of puffins.
9. Both male and female puffins construct the nests
Puffins excavate nesting burrows in the soil. Both females and males construct the nest, with the male usually doing more digging than the female puffin.
Puffins mate for life.
10. Puffins can’t fly for about one or two months of the year
Last on this list of facts about puffins is an interesting one. All birds shed and regrow their feathers once a year, but with most birds, this process is gradual, shedding only a few at a time. But not puffin. Atlantic puffins shed all their primaries (flight feathers) at one time. They aren’t able to fly until their feathers regrow.