Atlantic Puffin

(Fratercula arctica)


Atlantic puffins have a distinctive large, triangular red-orange bill with a blue-gray base and yellow ridge. Their head, neck, back and wings are black, while their cheeks are pale gray and white. Puffins have bright orange legs and webbed feet.

Puffins live most of their lives at sea (except during breeding season) and are adept at both swimming and flying. They can dive for up to a minute but are usually underwater for 20 to 30 seconds at a time, reaching depths of up to 300 feet. Puffins use their wings to push through the water and can swim as fast as 10 miles per hour. They can also fly about 50 miles per hour, thanks to wicked-fast wings that can beat up to 400 times a minute.

A Note from the Caretaker

Atlantic puffins return to the same nesting ground year after year, often choosing the same mate.

Quick Facts

Learn more about Atlantic puffins! Did you know that puffins are sometimes called the parrots of the sea?

All puffins live in the northern hemisphere. (Penguins, which are often confused with puffins, live mostly south of the equator.) Atlantic puffins inhabit a geographic range from the coast of New England to Iceland and the British Isles. They spend most of their lives at sea but return to land to breed, with about 60% of the world's population nesting in Iceland.

Atlantic puffins eat several types of fish. At the Aquarium, they are fed silversides, smelt and capelin.

Atlantic puffins are typically about 12 inches tall.

Atlantic puffin populations have declined dramatically in many areas of its range, due in part to human activities. The Atlantic puffin is currently listed as vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.

The great black-backed gull is a predator of the Atlantic puffin, as are foxes and rats.

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