The Puffins on Burhou are a colony of a species known as the Atlantic Puffin. Their species belongs to a family of birds called Auks. All Auks are marine birds that come to land only to breed. Although they are sometimes called 'Penguins of the Northern Hemisphere' due to their similar habits they are not actually related to Penguins.
However, the Atlantic Puffin does have many cousins in the Auk family. Two of these can be seen around the south coast of Alderney and on Coque Lihou. The first of these cousins is called the Razorbill (and is my personal favourite seabird!).
Razorbills are about 10cm bigger than Puffins in terms of length and wingspan. They are striking black and white birds with a short, thick, blunt bill. They do hide a very colourful feature though, if you ever see a Razorbill open its beak inside its mouth will be bright yellow! Like the Atlantic Puffin, Razorbills will dive for fish and can carry lots of Sandeels at the same time.
Razorbills breed on cliff ledges and not in burrows like Atlantic Puffins. They do not make a nest and only lay one egg. But to make sure it does not roll off the cliff their eggs are actually pear-shaped and balance on the adults feet. If the egg were to be knocked on the cliff it would roll in a circle instead of off the ledge!
Razorbill and Egg
The second cousin of Atlantic Puffins around Alderney is the Guillemot, and they also have one pear-shaped egg on cliff ledges instead of nesting in burrows.
Guillemots are only marginally bigger than Razorbills but are a much more slender shape, and are actually a very dark grey colour rather than being black. Unlike Atlantic Puffins or Razorbills, the Guillemot has a long, pointed beak that can only hold one fish at a time! So Guillemots tend to fish for a slightly larger species called Sprats, this means they get more food from one fish
The Auk Family
Around the UK Atlantic Puffins also have other cousins called the Little Auk, and another called the Black Guillemot. But these species live further North than Alderney prefering the ocean around Scotland.
All the members of the Auk family described so far live in the Atlantic Ocean. However, there are many species of Auk that also live in the Pacific Ocean - 2 of them are so closely related to Puffins that they look very similar and share the Puffin name. These are the Tufted Puffin and the Horned Puffin.
The Tufted and Horned Puffins nest in burrows and fish much like our Atlantic Puffin, but they are both a bit bigger.
Plus, there is a 3rd species that lives in the Pacific Ocean that is also very closely related to Atlantic Puffins (although not as closely related as the Tufted and Horned Puffins) that I have only recently learnt about. This species is called the Rhinocerous Auklet! Like the 3 Puffins the Rhinocerous Auklet will nest in burrows and feed on small fish.
Monday 29th April
Max 9 degrees / Min 8 degrees
Wind direction: West North Westerly 12mph
Today's Puffin Fact
A Puffin burrow has a turn in the tunnel where the Puffling goes to the toilet.
Having trained as a graphic designer and illustrator Filip began a career change in 2013. He gained skills in applied ecology and land management on the Great Fen Project in Cambridgeshire before moving to BirdLife Malta to work in wildlife crime mitigation, injured bird care and campaigning.
As research assistant for the Malta Seabird Project Filip worked with gulls, shearwaters and storm-petrels while developing an understanding of seabird ecology.
He is tasked with writing the next five-year management strategy for the Alderney West Coast and Burhou Islands Ramsar Site, and leading the seabird season for 2016.