All about puffins
The Atlantic Puffin is one of four species of puffin and the only one found in the Atlantic Ocean. It is a member of the Auk (Alcidae) family of sea birds which includes Guillemots, Razorbills and Auklets.
Today there are around 100 pairs of Burhou puffins. Puffins spend most of the year out in the Atlantic Ocean and only return to land in early April to breed and raise their young. Male and female puffins stay together for life, with the female laying one egg each year. On Burhou the puffins make their nests from old rabbit burrows and may end up sharing the burrows with rabbits and storm petrels.
Eggs are laid in the burrows in late spring/early summer. Both the male and the female take turns incubating the egg, with incubation usually taking between 36 and 45 days. Once the egg has hatched the parents take turns leaving the burrow in search of food for the puffling.
Sand eels are a favourite food for puffins. An adult puffin diving beneath the water will hold an average of ten sand eels in its beak at any one time, but there is a record of 62 fish at one time! To hold this number of fish, puffins use the rough spines on the roof of their mouths to avoid dropping their catch.
The puffling spend between 40 and 60 days in the nest before they fledge and swim out to sea. Most puffins leave the island some time in mid July. By early August the puffins will have departed Burhou, with just the colony of storm petrels in the rocks and rabbits that live in the long grass.
Did you know...
- A colony of puffins sitting on the water at sea is called a raft.
- A group of puffins is called a circus!
- When diving to catch fish puffins can stay under water for up to 30 seconds.
- A puffin's beak is made of keratin just like the human finger nail and the brightly coloured parts drop off in the winter.
- The average life span of a puffin is between 25 years.
- Puffins are very small, they are only about 18 centimetres tall.
- Puffins do not start to breed until they are 5 to 6 years of age.
- Puffins can fly at a speed of up to 45 miles per hour. To achieve this they will flap their wings 400 times a minute!