Fun Facts About Puffins for Kids

Updated on April 17, 2018

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


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.


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.


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

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

    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.

  • How strong are puffins?

    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.

  • Where do puffins live?

    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.


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    • profile image


      6 weeks ago

      this really helped me with my science presontation thanks!

    • profile image


      5 months ago

      these facts are cool

    • profile image


      8 months ago

      what do baby puffins start off eating when they are born

    • profile image


      10 months ago

      cool right

    • profile image

      11 months ago


    • profile image


      2 years ago

      it is wonderful

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      i love puffins

    • profile image


      2 years ago

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

    • Melovy profile imageAUTHOR

      Yvonne Spence 

      6 years ago from UK

      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!

    • Melovy profile imageAUTHOR

      Yvonne Spence 

      6 years ago from UK

      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.

    • starbright profile image

      Lucy Jones 

      6 years ago from Scandinavia

      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.

    • ishwaryaa22 profile image

      Ishwaryaa Dhandapani 

      6 years ago from Chennai, India

      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

    • Melovy profile imageAUTHOR

      Yvonne Spence 

      6 years ago from UK

      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.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 

      6 years ago from Central Florida

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

    • Melovy profile imageAUTHOR

      Yvonne Spence 

      6 years ago from UK

      aykianink, thanks very much!

      mr-veg - thank you!

    • Melovy profile imageAUTHOR

      Yvonne Spence 

      6 years ago from UK

      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.

    • Melovy profile imageAUTHOR

      Yvonne Spence 

      6 years ago from UK

      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 profile image


      6 years ago from Colorado United States

      Nice informative article ! Kudos !

    • aykianink profile image


      6 years ago

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

    • cam8510 profile image

      Chris Mills 

      6 years ago from Kettering, Ohio through January, 2020

      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 W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      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.

    • Melovy profile imageAUTHOR

      Yvonne Spence 

      6 years ago from UK

      Nettlemere, thanks so much.

    • Melovy profile imageAUTHOR

      Yvonne Spence 

      6 years ago from UK

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

    • Melovy profile imageAUTHOR

      Yvonne Spence 

      6 years ago from UK

      danielleantosz, thanks!

    • Melovy profile imageAUTHOR

      Yvonne Spence 

      6 years ago from UK

      Thanks Davenmidtown. I really appreciate your kind comment.

    • Nettlemere profile image


      6 years ago from Burnley, Lancashire, UK

      Delighted to see this one as HOTD Melovy!

    • cclitgirl profile image

      Cynthia Calhoun 

      6 years ago from Western NC

      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 profile image


      6 years ago from Florida

      Very cute! And congrats on Hub of the Day!

    • davenmidtown profile image

      David Stillwell 

      6 years ago from Sacramento, California

      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

    • Melovy profile imageAUTHOR

      Yvonne Spence 

      6 years ago from UK

      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.

    • Melovy profile imageAUTHOR

      Yvonne Spence 

      6 years ago from UK

      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.

    • JayeWisdom profile image

      Jaye Denman 

      6 years ago from Deep South, USA

      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.

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 

      6 years ago from sunny Florida

      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.

    • Melovy profile imageAUTHOR

      Yvonne Spence 

      6 years ago from UK

      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.

    • starbright profile image

      Lucy Jones 

      6 years ago from Scandinavia

      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.

    • Melovy profile imageAUTHOR

      Yvonne Spence 

      6 years ago from UK

      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!

    • Melovy profile imageAUTHOR

      Yvonne Spence 

      6 years ago from UK

      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 profile image


      6 years ago from United States

      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 profile image

      Deborah Brooks Langford 

      6 years ago from Brownsville,TX

      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


    • Melovy profile imageAUTHOR

      Yvonne Spence 

      6 years ago from UK

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

    • Melovy profile imageAUTHOR

      Yvonne Spence 

      6 years ago from UK

      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!

    • Melovy profile imageAUTHOR

      Yvonne Spence 

      6 years ago from UK

      RealHousewife, thanks!

    • Melovy profile imageAUTHOR

      Yvonne Spence 

      6 years ago from UK

      Hi a,

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

    • HoneyBB profile image

      H Lax 

      6 years ago

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

    • davenmidtown profile image

      David Stillwell 

      6 years ago from Sacramento, California

      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...

    • RealHousewife profile image

      Kelly Umphenour 

      6 years ago from St. Louis, MO

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

    • profile image

      6 years ago

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

    • Melovy profile imageAUTHOR

      Yvonne Spence 

      7 years ago from UK

      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.

    • robie2 profile image

      Roberta Kyle 

      7 years ago from Central New Jersey

      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.

      really enjoyed reading this-- thumbs up up up.

    • Melovy profile imageAUTHOR

      Yvonne Spence 

      7 years ago from UK

      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.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      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!

    • Melovy profile imageAUTHOR

      Yvonne Spence 

      7 years ago from UK

      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.)

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 

      7 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

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

    • profile image


      7 years ago

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

    • Jeannieinabottle profile image

      Jeannie Marie 

      7 years ago from Baltimore, MD

      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!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      7 years ago from Olympia, WA

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

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 

      7 years ago from Florida

      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.

    • ChristyWrites profile image

      Christy Birmingham 

      7 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

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

    • DeborahNeyens profile image

      Deborah Neyens 

      7 years ago from Iowa

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

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 

      7 years ago from Massachusetts

      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...

    • profile image


      7 years ago

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

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      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

    • Jools99 profile image

      Jools Hogg 

      7 years ago from North-East UK

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

    • unknown spy profile image

      Life Under Construction 

      7 years ago from Neverland

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

    • Patty Kenyon profile image

      Patty Kenyon 

      7 years ago from Ledyard, Connecticut

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

    • Nettlemere profile image


      7 years ago from Burnley, Lancashire, UK

      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!

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 

      7 years ago from New York

      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 profile image

      shea duane 

      7 years ago from new jersey

      I'll join a puffin fan club!

    • Melovy profile imageAUTHOR

      Yvonne Spence 

      7 years ago from UK

      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 profile image

      John Sarkis 

      7 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

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

      voted up


    • Just Ask Susan profile image

      Susan Zutautas 

      7 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      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 profile image

      Amy Gillie 

      7 years ago from Indiana

      So so so cute!!! 'Nuff said.

    • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

      Marcy Goodfleisch 

      7 years ago from Planet Earth

      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!

    • RealHousewife profile image

      Kelly Umphenour 

      7 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      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!

    • cocopreme profile image

      Candace Bacon 

      7 years ago from Far, far away

      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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