Where do some of our summer visitors go in the winter? 2. Puffins



Puffins which are among our favourite seabirds have an amazing lifestyle. They are only onshore in the breeding season from April to early August, the rest of the time they spend at sea including all winter which makes them particularly susceptible to winter storms. Puffins from the east coast will go as far as the Norwegian coast while those from the west coast and Ireland have been found as far west as the grand banks off Newfoundland. Others have also been found south of the UK in the Mediterranean (the sensible ones!). Its seems that puffins will go where the fish stocks are and since their preferred diet of sandeels is under threat they will travel huge distances to find sand eels or even Capelin which is another favourite but only found in the west Atlantic.

When puffins are breeding they live in holes in the ground like rabbit burrows (sometimes it is a rabbit burrow which doesn’t impress the rabbits at all!).  Newly hatched chicks are called pufflings and are covered in grey down, the puffling will stay in the burrow for up to 44 days when it flies down to the sea and then has to fend for itself. Oldest known puffin lived for 33 years. Did you know that in the winter puffins lose most of the colour in their beak and it becomes grey and dull colours?

Puffins are under threat because of predation, big storms in the winter when they are at sea and especially declining fish stocks.  Let’s hope that robust fisheries management measures will be introduced to help the survival of this beautiful “clown” bird which we all love.