4 In flight

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 143 pairs of Burhou Puffins. The Puffins spend most of the year out in the Atlantic Ocean and only return to land at the end of March to breed and raise their young. Male and female Puffins stay together for life and the female will lay one egg each year. On Burhou the Puffins build their nests in old rabbit burrows or on the side of the cliffs. Once they have made a nest the male and female will return to the same nest every year!

Puffin with sand eel

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 chick.

Sand eels are the favourite food of the Burhou Puffins. An adult Puffin diving beneath the water can hold up to 10 sand eels in its beak at any 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 chicks spend between 34 and 60 days in the nest before they fledge and swim out to sea to join the Puffin colony. Most Puffins leave the island some time in early July. By early August Burhou Island is once again deserted. Just home to the colony of Gulls on the rocks and rabbits that live in the long grass

Did you know?

16 All at sea

  • A colony of Puffins living 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!
  • Puffins usually hold up to 10 small fish in their beaks. The record catch by one single Puffin was 62!
  • A Puffin's beak is made of Keratin just like the human finger nail!
  • The average life span of a Puffin is between 20 and 30 years.
  • Puffins are one of the smallest sea birds. They are 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 speed a Puffin will flap its wings 400 times a minute!