Puffin

Fratercula arctica (Linnaeus, 1758) PU PUFFI 6540
Family: Charadriiformes > Alcidae

Puffin, Edmund Fellowes

The most familiar, and some would say charismatic, of our breeding auks, the Puffin is also the most localised in its British breeding range.

Puffins are predominantly burrow-nesters using sites within short grassy swards, often located on sloping ground above cliffs. Although many of these burrows will have been excavated by the Puffins themselves, they are not averse to taking over burrows from Rabbits or Manx Shearwaters.

Our Puffins spend the winter at sea, with ringing data suggesting an extensive wintering range, extending over the eastern Atlantic, south to north-west Africa and with some individuals venturing into the Mediterranean Sea.

Identification

Puffin identification is usually straightforward. The following article may help when identifying Puffin.

related video

Identifying winter Auks

Summer Auks, in breeding plumage, at the shore or near to their colonies are relatively easy to identify. But in autumn and winter we tend to see them flying rapidly past, far offshore, or bobbing around in heavy seas offering poor views. When you add to this that their distinctive breeding plumage and colouring is lost, winter Auks can be a serious challenge to identify and separate.

SONGS AND CALLS

Listen to example recordings of the main vocalisations of Puffin, provided by xeno-canto contributors.

Song

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Status and Trends

Population size and trends and patterns of distribution based on BTO surveys and atlases with data collected by BTO volunteers.

CONSERVATION STATUS

This species can be found on the following statutory and conservation listings and schedules.

POPULATION SIZE

POPULATION CHANGE

The number of Puffins breeding in the UK increased by 37% between 1969–70 and Seabird 2000 (1998–2002). However, a large decline at two of the largest colonies (Farne Islands and the Isle of May) occurred between 2003 and 2008/09. It is unclear, however, whether these declines are representative of the wider UK population; the recent Seabirds Count (2015–2021) should help confirm and quantify the magnitude of any national population decline.

DISTRIBUTION

The bulk of Britain & Ireland's Puffins breed in the Northern Isles, St Kilda, along the North Sea coast south to Yorkshire, in southwest Wales and in western Ireland. In winter they are mostly pelagic and a scattering of records around the coast mainly relate to autumn records and storm-blown individuals.

Occupied 10-km squares in UK

European Distribution Map

European Breeding Bird Atlas 2

DISTRIBUTION CHANGE

Change in occupied 10-km squares in the UK

SEASONALITY

Puffins are mostly recorded during the breeding season from suitable coastal breeding areas, arriving from March onwards. They depart cliffs quickly and are rarely seen during autumn migration or in winter.

Weekly occurence of Puffin from BirdTrack
Weekly occurrence patterns (shaded cells) and reporting rates (vertical bars) based on BirdTrack data. Reporting rates give the likelihood of encountering the species each week.

Movement

Information about movement and migration based on online bird portals (e.g. BirdTrack), Ringing schemes and tracking studies.

RINGING RECOVERIES

View a summary of recoveries in the Online Ringing Report.

Foreign locations of birds ringed or recovered in Britain & Ireland

Foreign locations of Puffin ringed or recovered in Britain & Ireland
Encountered in: Winter (Nov-Feb); Spring (Mar-Apr); Summer (May-Jul); Autumn (Aug-Oct)

Biology

Lifecycle and body size information about Puffin, including statistics on nesting, eggs and lifespan based on BTO ringing and nest recording data.

PRODUCTIVITY & NESTING

SURVIVAL & LONGEVITY

View number ringed each year in the Online Ringing Report

BIOMETRICS

Feather measurements and photos on featherbase

CODES & CLASSIFICATION

For information in another language (where available) click on a linked name

Gaelic: Buthaid
Welsh: Pâl
Catalan: fraret atlàntic
Czech: papuchalk severní
Danish: Lunde
Dutch: Papegaaiduiker
Estonian: lunn e. põhjalunn
Finnish: lunni
French: Macareux moine
German: Papageitaucher
Hungarian: lunda
Icelandic: Lundi
Irish: Puifín
Italian: Pulcinella di mare
Latvian: Atlantijas tuklitis
Lithuanian: atlantinis mormonas
Norwegian: Lunde
Polish: maskonur (zwyczajny)
Portuguese: papagaio-do-mar
Slovak: mníšik bielobradý
Slovenian: mormon
Spanish: Frailecillo atlántico
Swedish: lunnefågel
Folkname: Londoner

Research

Interpretation and scientific publications about Puffin from BTO scientists.

CAUSES AND SOLUTIONS

Causes of change

The reasons for the population increases between 1969–70 and Seabird 2000 are not known (JNCC 2022 or link to website). Productivity was low between 1998 and 2013 and this may have contributed to declines, with food shortages and high levels of rainfall causing flooding of burrows both being implicated (JNCC 2022 or link to website). An Icelandic study found a strong correlation between Puffin breeding productivity and local sea surface temperatures (which can affect prey abundance) (Hansen et al. 2021), and it is likely that UK colonies are also being affected by changes to sea surface temperatures caused by climate change. Prey shortages result in longer foraging ranges and lower productivity which ultimately leads to declines (Fayet et al. 2021). The population may also be affected by survival and it is believed that a 'wreck' in the winter of 2013/14 following several severe storms may have had a substantial effect on the Puffin populations at some UK sites (JNCC 2022 or link to website).

PUBLICATIONS (2)

Peer-reviewed papers

An experimental study of reduced parental effort and future reproductive success in the puffin, Fratercula arctica

1998 | Wernham, C.V. & Bryant, D.M.Journal of Animal Ecology

Peer-reviewed papers

Factors influencing the survival of Puffins Fratercula arctica at a North Sea colony over a 20-year period

1997 | Harris, M.P., Freeman, S.N., Wanless, S., Morgan, B.J.T. & Wernham, C.V.Journal of Avian Biology

Links to more information from ConservationEvidence.com

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