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Fun Facts About Puffins for Kids

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Where do puffins build their nests?

Unlike the majority of seabirds, most puffins do not build nests on rocky ledges, but instead they dig burrows high up on grassy cliff-tops. Puffins use both their feet and beaks to dig. It’s hard work so they will also use an old rabbit burrow if the rabbits have left.

Puffins also return to the same home after they have been away for a while. The video below is by the Royal Society For Protection of Birds (RSPB) and shows puffins returning to their burrow at the start of the breeding season.

These puffins breed at Sumburgh Head on the Shetland Isles, which is one of the easiest places in the world to see puffins. The cliffs where they nest are only meters from the road. Gannets and guillemots also live at Sumburgh, so you can see many, many birds.

Puffins return to their burrow

Where do puffins live most of the year?

Most of their lives puffins do not live on land, but far out to sea. They spend all winter on the ocean waves. In April or May each year they come back to their breeding grounds, where they stay until mid August or occasionally till early September. Even then puffins make many trips out to sea to catch fish for themselves and their babies.

Puffins who are too young to breed stay at sea all year.

Puffin partners

Puffins are monogamous, so they choose one mate and stay together for life. If however, their mate dies they will “remarry,” choosing a different mate. Puffins begin to nest and breed when they are around 5 or 6 years old, and most live to be about 25. Puffins do not stay with their partner all the time when they are at sea.

Puffin families

Healthy puffins have one chick each year. This chick is called a puffling. The video below, also by the RSPB, shows a puffling hatch from its egg. (The video is a little long; so if you want to see the puffling straight away go forward to 1.20 on the counter.)

Both parents sit on the egg and look after the baby, and unlike many birds, both male and female puffins look the same so it’s hard to know whether this is mother or father with the baby!

It is very rare to see pufflings this young because they are always tucked away in their burrows.

A baby puffin (puffling) being born.

Puffin toilets

Puffins are extremely clean animals! They have a separate toilet area in their burrow. They build their nest deep in the burrow and the toilet is usually closer to the entrance, sometimes around a bend. The puffling needs to be kept clean because otherwise it will not be able to fly. I think this shows how intelligent puffins are!

Puffins’ beaks and feet

Although people recognize the puffin by its colorful beak, as you can see in the third video, it is born with a dull beak. This gradually changes over the years and by the time it has a brightly colored beak it is ready for mating. After the breeding season, the beaks and feet both fade to a much duller color.

Puffins’ beaks are special for another reason besides color – they have little spines that mean they can hold fish in their mouths and still go on catching more. The most fish that anyone has seen in a puffin's mouth is 62, but more often they will catch about 10.

Atlantic Puffins are known for their colorful beaks and feet

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Puffin food

Puffins mainly eat sand eels, which are very small soft fish. If these aren’t available they can also eat other small fish such as herring.

No-fun facts about food scarcity

Sand eels have become scarcer in recent years and so some puffins have not been able to breed or else their babies go hungry and die. Some puffins have tried to feed the pufflings on pipe fish, but these are too hard for the babies to eat and they can choke.

Scientists are not sure why the sand eels have reduced in number so much, but some think it could be because the seas are growing warmer and so eels are moving further north. Scientists have fitted some puffins with GPS devices to see where they are going to hunt for fish and have discovered that they fly very long distances – sometimes as far as 20 miles to get food. They make this trip several times a day. Puffins are not in danger as yet, but their numbers have fallen drastically in every country where they breed. Almost all seabirds are facing the same decline in numbers. To read more about why this might be and what we can do to help, read my article Are Puffins Endangered.

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What Predators do Puffins have?

The main natural predators of puffins are large birds such as the black back gulls. The Arctic Skua, which is also known as the bonxsie will also attack puffins, sometimes just stealing their food, but other times killing them.

In some areas rats, mink and cats will attack them.


Are penguins related to puffins?

No. Puffins belong to the auk family of birds. Although penguins look similar to puffins in some ways, they are not auks, but belong to the sphenisciformes group of birds.

While you might find both birds in zoos anywhere, puffins only live naturally in the Northern Hemisphere and penguins only live naturally in the Southern Hemisphere.

How many types of puffin are there?

There are 4 types of puffin. By far the most common is the Atlantic Puffin, which used to be called the Common Puffin. (I wonder why!) Next most common, and by far the strangest looking is the Tufted Puffin, followed by the Horned Puffin, which has a little pointed fleshy horn above its eye. The fourth type of puffin is not usually called a puffin at all, but the Rhinoceros Auklet. (Although just to be confusing, it is sometimes called the Horn-billed puffin.)

All the puffins in the photographs here are Atlantic Puffins. For information on other puffins read Where to Find Puffins Around the World.

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Some other names for puffins

Around the world, puffins are known by several different names.

In Scandinavian countries and in Iceland, puffins are called lundi or lunde.

Since Iceland and Norway together have well over half of the world’s population of Atlantic Puffins, there are probably more lundis in the world than there are puffins!

In Norway people used to hunt puffins and bred a dog called the lundehund. (Norwegians no longer hunt puffins.)

In the Shetland and Orkney Islands off Scotland’s northern coast, the name for a puffin is Tammie Norrie. People from elsewhere in Scotland sometimes also sometimes use this name. During the 19th century Tammie Norrie was also a name given to a “stupid looking, bashful man.” Since puffins are also known as the clown of the sea, perhaps this is why they came to be called Tammie Norrie. (Clowns usually act a bit silly, after all!)

Another name puffins are sometimes known by is sea parrot. It’s not hard to see why they got this name!

Questions & Answers

Question: How soon do young puffins develop color in their feathers and/or beak?

Answer: It varies from puffin to puffin, but in general, color develops gradually, and will be complete by the time they are ready to breed, which is usually around age five.

Question: How strong are puffins?

Answer: I'd say they are pretty strong because they can fly for miles and miles, all the while carrying several fish in their beaks. (I can't do any of that!) I think they also have strong intelligence.

But if it comes to fighting off bigger birds, like the Arctic skua (which often live near puffins), then they haven't got that kind of strength, and the skua sometimes steals their food and can kill puffins.

So like everything in nature, they have their innate strengths and weaknesses.

Question: Where do puffins live?

Answer: From mid-August to mid-April, puffins live at sea. During the breeding season, they live in many places around the world, including both coasts of North America and Northern European coastlines. The UK and Norway have the largest populations in Europe. They also live along the coasts of Japan.

You can read more in my article: Where To See Puffins Around the World.

Comments

Kendall on September 30, 2019:

this really helped me with my science presontation thanks!

GamermationMC on June 09, 2019:

these facts are cool

elmo on March 04, 2019:

what do baby puffins start off eating when they are born

adam on December 18, 2018:

cool right

C on December 03, 2018:

Cool

kelly on May 17, 2017:

it is wonderful

laaaaaaaaaaaaa on November 30, 2016:

i love puffins

shifa on November 27, 2016:

Thanks so much for the information . Just stupendous! I needed the information for a project in school and this website was really useful

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on December 30, 2012:

starbright, thank you SO much for your lovely comment! I feel so honoured by your words. I do hope you are right and we can get the word out that puffins need protecting - in the Faroes and elsewhere. I do feel encouraged by the work some of the conservation scientists are doing.

Thank you for your kind wishes and I also wish you a beautiful 2013 with lots of success on HubPages and elsewhere!

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on December 30, 2012:

ishwaryaa22, thanks for such a kind comment and for being such a loyal reader of my hubs. And thanks for sharing this too. Wishing you a great 2013.

Lucy Jones from Scandinavia on December 26, 2012:

I've already commented, but I can't help just saying that this hub is probably one of my favorites for 2012. Thanks so much for sharing and getting the Hub of the Day award - well done. I've already shared, voted and done what I can to get your word out about these glorious birds. Hopefully our friends on our neighboring Faroa Islands will soon get the message and find something else to delight their savory pallets. Hope you had a really good Christmas holiday. In any event I wish you a wonderful 2013 and many more HOTD awards for your inspiring hubs.

Ishwaryaa Dhandapani from Chennai, India on December 24, 2012:

An engaging & detailed hub with vibrant videos and wonderful photos! Congrats for winning the HOTD! I also extend my congrats for winning another HOTD for your nut burgers! Wow! 2 HOTDs in 2 days! Way to go!

Thanks for SHARING. Useful, Awesome & Interesting. Voted up

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on December 23, 2012:

Hi bravewarrior. I guess because I grew up with puffins I never thought of how many people have never seen them. Glad you enjoyed the hub and thanks for your kind comment.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on December 23, 2012:

This is fascinating; I always thought Puffins were land birds without flight. Congrats on Hub of the Day! What an honor!

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on December 23, 2012:

aykianink, thanks very much!

mr-veg - thank you!

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on December 23, 2012:

Hi cam8510,

Lucky you! I can imagine it would be amazing to see puffins in Iceland, since there are so many of them there. I have mostly seen them in the Shetland Isles, which is where the photos and videos are all from. It's pretty spectacular there too. Glad you learned some more about them from the hub and thanks for your comment.

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on December 23, 2012:

Peggy, thanks so much for your kind comment and for tweeting! I love puffins and have been lucky enough to see them several times so have been delighted to share what I know about them. I hope that awareness can help in some way to halt their decline.

mr-veg from Colorado United States on December 22, 2012:

Nice informative article ! Kudos !

aykianink on December 22, 2012:

Holy smokes that's a cute bird...Thumbs on the hub, and congrats on HOTD.

Chris Mills from Traverse City, MI on December 22, 2012:

Melovy, I thoroughly enjoyed this hub. As a family, we visited Norway, Iceland, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. We saw Puffins in all of those places. It was very special in Iceland because we were on a very high place overlooking the ocean and could lie down and look over the edge to see them flying and landing at their nests. I learned a lot from your hub about what I had already seen. Thank you.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on December 22, 2012:

Melovy, This is such an informative and well written hub about Puffins. Congrats on the HOTD. Well deserved. Amazing videos to watch as well. Up, useful and interesting votes + tweeting.

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on December 22, 2012:

Nettlemere, thanks so much.

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on December 22, 2012:

cclitgirl, glad you enjoyed the hub and that you learned some new things! Puffins are so cool. Thanks for your comment,

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on December 22, 2012:

danielleantosz, thanks!

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on December 22, 2012:

Thanks Davenmidtown. I really appreciate your kind comment.

Nettlemere from Burnley, Lancashire, UK on December 22, 2012:

Delighted to see this one as HOTD Melovy!

Cynthia Calhoun from Western NC on December 22, 2012:

Congrats on your HOTD! I learned some new things about puffins, too. What a great hub and well-deserved in the spotlight! These are beautiful birds, too. :)

danielleantosz from Florida on December 22, 2012:

Very cute! And congrats on Hub of the Day!

David Stillwell from Sacramento, California on December 22, 2012:

Melovy: Congratulations on Hub of the Day... It is well deserved and as a writer, I appreciate all that you put into your hubs! DMT

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on December 22, 2012:

Hi JayeWisdom, I also hope they survive. Glad you liked the hub and the videos. The one of the baby puffling being born is my favourite, so sweet.

Wishing you happy Holidays.

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on December 22, 2012:

Hi pstraubie48, thanks for your sweet comment. I agree that the it's the kid in us that loves puffins - what I nice way to put it.

Jaye Denman from Deep South, USA on December 22, 2012:

This is a very interesting article, and I enjoyed reading it and looking at the videos. The puffin is, indeed, an interesting bird. I hope the species will survive.

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on December 22, 2012:

Love these little critters. This is a great article for the KID in all of us. Thanks for sharing. Sending Angels your way :) ps Congratulations on hub of the day.

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on December 22, 2012:

Hi starbright,

I also find it sad that puffins are still sometimes eaten Faroes, especially when their numbers are dropping so drastically. I think they are no longer eaten in Iceland though, so maybe Faroes will soon also conserve them. I agree with you that they are adorable and that they must be very intelligent - how many birds have separate toilet areas, after all?

Thanks very much for your comment.

Lucy Jones from Scandinavia on December 22, 2012:

Puffins are gorgeous creatures. And sorry to say that they are still caught and eaten on the Faroe islands, although being eaten by humans are not the biggest threat they have. It does make me very sad though that they are still eaten in some parts of the world. Although I've never participated in this 'meal' - I have seen the glorious Puffin on Mykines (Faroe Islands) in the mating season. They are so adorable and very intelligent. Thanks for sharing this wonderful tribute to the Puffin. Voted up.

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on December 22, 2012:

FullOfLoveSites, you are right they are gorgeous! I agree that we need to appreciate nature more and more. Thanks very much for your kind comment!

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on December 22, 2012:

Deborah, I am delighted to have introduced you to puffins! They are amazing birds, and so lovely to see in real life.

Thanks for your comment and merry Christmas to you too!

FullOfLoveSites from United States on December 21, 2012:

Such a gorgeous-looking bird... I've seen puffins on books and on TV. I wish to see them in real life!

Any hubs about the works of Mother Nature are definitely not lame! We must appreciate them more and more, especially to animals and plants that are endangered.

Wonderful hub, my friend. Voted up and interesting. :)

Deborah Brooks Langford from Brownsville,TX on December 20, 2012:

What an interesting bird.. I have never heard of Puffins.. thank you for this educational hub.. I am amazed they only have one baby a year.. and they actually have a separate place for a toilet.. great hub.. I hope something can be done to help them survive and not die out.

Merry Christmas

Debbie

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on December 20, 2012:

HoneyBB, I agree they are so beautiful. Glad you enjoyed the hub and thanks for your comment!

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on December 20, 2012:

davenmidtown, "Lame... would have been a topic on ducks..." I love it! And I am pleased you found this well written and informative - thanks very much for your kind comment!

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on December 20, 2012:

RealHousewife, thanks!

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on December 20, 2012:

Hi a,

Thanks very much for your comment. Sorry you didn't enjoy the hub, it's really helped boost views!

H Lax on December 20, 2012:

Those puffins or lundis are beautiful birds. The information you provided about them is very interesting. I enjoyed learning about them. thanks for sharing.

David Stillwell from Sacramento, California on December 19, 2012:

I came here to read because someone said this hub was lame... what I found was a remarkably well written and informative document that described the topic/species in such a way as to make this an enjoyable read for all different age levels. Lame... would have been a topic on ducks...

Kelly Umphenour from St. Louis, MO on December 19, 2012:

Melovy - that makes me laugh:) I think the comment above is the only lame thing on the page - who does that?

a on December 19, 2012:

this is lame!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on September 01, 2012:

robie2, I'd love to go to Iceland even though I can see all the puffins I want in Shetland. Having written all these puffin hubs it just seems right to see them in Iceland somehow! Thanks for the clarification about the book. I have read Bruce McMillan's website, and seen the videos. In fact I featured it in one of my other hubs - but thanks for including the information here.

Glad you enjoyed the hub and thanks for your comment.

Roberta Kyle from Central New Jersey on August 27, 2012:

I first got up close and personal with Puffins when I visited the Westmann Islands in Iceland. They really are the most comical and delightful birds and I was so happy to find this terrific fact filled hub about them. The book summerberrie is referring to is actually called " Nights of the Pufflings" and was written by Bruce McMillan. Bruce is a great Icelandophile and a really talented photographer and writer. This book is about the annual thing that kids do in the Westmann Islands to help the baby pufflings get from their burrows to the sea. It's a lovely story. Here's a link to Bruce's author page where there is more info available. http://www.brucemcmillan.com/FRB_Book032_NightsOTP...

really enjoyed reading this-- thumbs up up up.

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on July 31, 2012:

Summerberrie, now you've intrigued me. I haven't heard of "The Night of the Puffins." I will have to look that up. BTW, I'm hoping this will be a good resource for schools.

Thanks for your comment.

summerberrie on July 31, 2012:

Melvoy, thanks for providing so many details about Puffins. I've read about them- "The Night of the Puffins" is apart of SC's 4th grade reading. I wish I had a link to your hub when I was still teaching!

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on July 31, 2012:

Thanks everyone for your very kind comments. Sorry for not giving individual replies, but July has been a very hectic month for me. Hoping to catch up with your hubs in August.

Rebecca, I feel very flattered by your comment about National Geographic. Don't think I'm quite there yet, but I am submitting a piece to a UK newspaper soon so fingers crossed. (My new Nikon is a big help with wildlife photos.)

Rebecca Mealey from Northeastern Georgia, USA on July 28, 2012:

Awesome, Melovy! Have you considered applying for work with National Geographic? I so enjoy your photos and videos!

KDuBarry03 on July 28, 2012:

I absolutely love puffins! They are the most adorable bird! Would love to own one hopefully...haha! Well done, Yvonne!

Jeannie Marie from Baltimore, MD on July 28, 2012:

Puffins are so cute! This hub makes me wish I could adopt one and keep it as a pet. Thank you for sharing your beautiful photos and video, too. Voted up!

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on July 28, 2012:

I'm back and it is every bit as enjoyable the second time. Well done Yvonne.

Mary Hyatt from Florida on July 28, 2012:

Oh, my: I see one of my Hubs here as a related one on the wildlife in the state of Florida! What a surprise! I really enjoyed reading this Hub about the adorable Puffins.

I voted this Hub UP, and will share.

Christy Birmingham from British Columbia, Canada on July 28, 2012:

Awe, puffins are cute! I had seen them before but knew nothing about them ... until this hub! Vote up and beautiful.

Deborah Neyens from Iowa on July 28, 2012:

What a cool-looking bird! It almost looks like a toy and not a real bird. Interesting hub.

Bill De Giulio from Massachusetts on July 28, 2012:

What a great Hub. They are beautiful. I think the only time we have seen them was in Alaska a few years ago. You have a great series go on the Puffin, well done. Voting up, sharing, etc...

ignugent17 on July 28, 2012:

This is so cute. I love to look at this bird and now I know the name puffins. Thanks for the information Melovy.

kelleyward on July 28, 2012:

This is another amazing glimpse into the life of a puffin. Before reading your hubs about these cute birds I'd never really paid much attention to them. Now I notice all the books, stories, and movies written about them. So cute. Voted up awesome and pinned Kelley

Jools Hogg from North-East UK on July 28, 2012:

Great hub Yvonne. I do think puffins are real cuties :o) Voted up and shared etc.

Life Under Construction from Neverland on July 28, 2012:

Mel, they're really cute..as if they're not real at all. Oh love that video!

Patty Kenyon from Ledyard, Connecticut on July 27, 2012:

Interesting Hub!! I learned a lot about Puffins through your Hub!! Awesome Pictures as well!!

Nettlemere from Burnley, Lancashire, UK on July 27, 2012:

Great article and you've taken lovely photos as well as your video. Fascinated to read about the Lundehunde which I'd heard of but had no idea it was originally a puffin hunter. You certainly managed to pack in lots of fun facts!

Mary Craig from New York on July 27, 2012:

I think puffins are the cutest birds...I own a cockatiel but know he doesn't compare to a puffin! When my husband wanted to go to Alaska, I didn't because of the cold, but I agreed because I thought I might see some puffins! Seriously though I did see them in Alaska!

Loved all the information and photos and videos in this hub!

Voted up, useful, awesome, and interesting.

shea duane from new jersey on July 27, 2012:

I'll join a puffin fan club!

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on July 27, 2012:

Thanks for your comments everyone! Sorry for not doing individual replies but I am so far behind with comments and writing for this month. I think I'll start a puffin fan club. (Or maybe we already have!)

John Sarkis from Winter Haven, FL on July 27, 2012:

This is just too cute! I love Puffins. Great hub and quite interesting at that.

voted up

John

Susan Zutautas from Ontario, Canada on July 27, 2012:

I so enjoy all your hubs on Puffins:) I've got to share this with my son's girlfriend. She'll love this one! Great job on the video too.

Amy Gillie from Indiana on July 27, 2012:

So so so cute!!! 'Nuff said.

Marcy Goodfleisch from Planet Earth on July 27, 2012:

Omigosh - that baby being hatched is such a great video! He looks so tiny and confused - and I love the way the mama nestles him to make sure he's okay. Your puffins are wonderful - what terrific hub!

Many votes, and shared!

Kelly Umphenour from St. Louis, MO on July 27, 2012:

This is fantastic! My mom just got back from Iceland and she went to see some Puffins and was so excited. I'm thrilled to share this with her!

The videos - I could see them!! Awesome!

Candace Bacon from Far, far away on July 27, 2012:

The baby puffin is adorable! This is such a great hub. I was sorry to hear that puffins are losing their source of food and their numbers are declining.

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