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Puffin Watching Season

“You can't trust just any old person who comes along with a hundred puffins and a pretty face!”

~ Catherynne M. Valente, The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two

Widely regarded as the cutest birds on earth, puffins have also been referred to as "the clowns of the ocean" or "sea parrots." Looking somewhat like a colorful cross between a duck and penguin, the Atlantic male puffin, though silent at sea, will on land, give piglike grunts while flicking his head back in order to attract a female. In breeding burrows males also make a growling call similar to the sound of a muted toy chainsaw! And it was recently discovered that the beaks of Atlantic puffins are fluorescent and glow a bright blue when placed under an ultraviolet light, a feature believed to be related to sexual signaling. A group of puffins is whimsically known as either a: "burrow", "circus", "colony", "improbability", or "puffinry" of puffins! 🐧

By designer Carol A.L. Martin, this was inspired by the Atlantic puffin, a small and colourful bird sometimes known as the "clown of the sea" or the "sea parrot" found along the coastlines of the North Atlantic Ocean.  The largest puffin population in the world is in Iceland. 

The Atlantic puffin, also known as the common puffin, is a species of seabird found in IcelandNorwayGreenlandNewfoundland and many North Atlantic islands, and as far south as Maine in the west and the west coast of Ireland and parts of the United Kingdom in the east. 

The scientific name Fratercula comes from the Medieval Latin fratercula, for "little friar," a reference believed to refer the black and white plumage which resembles monastic robes.

Puffins are wonderful flyers, flapping their wings up to 400 times a minute and speeding through the air at up to 88km an hour. Not only that, they are excellent swimmers as well.   Using their webbed feet as a rudder, puffins can dive down 60m under water in search of their favourite fish.


In spring and summer, thousands of puffins gather in colonies on the coasts and islands of the North Atlantic Ocean to breed. They usually pair up with the same partner as previous years  - some breeding pairs have been together for 20 years!

For more about the Atlantic puffin, click the puffin!

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