The plucky little birds that delight anyone who gets to see them in the wild.
Puffins are such comical characters, waddling in distinctly clumsy fashion, after coming back down to earth, on making their uncomfortable journeys back to their nest holes, very obviously much happier in the air. The sight of these cute creatures bring automatic smiles to people’s faces, but the looks are deceptive, these hardy birds being prey and predator, at the same time, surviving, and breeding well, in natural world that is fiercely competitive natural world, life for them being anything but easy, a constant battle for food and space .
The puffin, of course, looks like any respectable clown might want to, with plumage of black and white, red and black coloration around the eyes, pale cheeks, bright orange legs, and multi-colored beaks, visible from way off, though this rainbow bill only occurs during the mating season, but it does serve to make these quirky seabirds even more appealing to those lucky enough to catch sight of them.
Brilliant divers, puffins have very short wings especially adapted for swimming, enabling them to adopt a flying technique under water, and thus move fast. They can fly, having to beat their wings up to 400 times a minute, because flight is such an awkward thing for them, just to remain airborne, and tending to stay fairly low, in flight, over the sea surface. The problems these birds have, in flying, make them easy targets for many other species of predatory seabirds, so puffins lead very dangerous lives, every time they go out for food.
Though quite small birds, at only 12inches, they are extremely resourceful, being not just excellent swimmers, but also able to dive as deep as 300ft, searching for a meal. Able to avoid the land, by staying out at sea for periods as long as eight months, Puffins do well for most of the year. and the six weeks, spent in the nest hole, will end for young birds by spending the first three full years of their lives, at sea, before ever touching land, because they are not ready to breed before that.
These incredibly plucky little birds pair up for life, even using the same nesting site every single year. Parent incubate the eggs in rotation, unlike many other types of bird, where it is left to the female alone to do. With average life-spans of 25 to 30 years, these amazingly capable fighters only raise one chick at a time, feeding it up to eight times daily.
Such feeding trips are always fraught with peril, as other birds attempt to steal the catch before parent birds get back to the nest, to feed the ‘pufflings’. Puffin adults are skillful predators in their own right, often observed with ten or more sand-eels in their beaks, at any one time, and constantly striving to keep the young fed..They are one of nature’s most adorable survivors, and we must pray that are still with us for many years to come.
All images used with permission