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Monday, January 4, 2016

Species Fact Profile: Atlantic Puffin (Fratercula arctica)

Atlantic Puffin
Fratercula arctica (Linnaeus, 1758)

Range: North Atlantic
Habitat: Ocean, Cliffs, Offshore Islands
Diet: Fish, Marine Invertebrates
Social Grouping: Large Flocks
Reproduction: Monogamous.  Breed from February through April.  Single egg laid after 43 day incubation period, chick leaves burrow and becomes independent at six weeks of age.  Reproductively mature at 3-6 years old
Lifespan: 30 Years
Conservation Status: IUCN Least Concern

  • Body length 28-34 centimeters, wingspan 50-60 centimeters
  • Black on the dorsal surface, neck, and top of the head, while the stomach and cheeks are white.  The large triangular beak is striped red, blue, and yellow during the summer, duller in the winter
  • Spend most of the year out at sea, coming to land in order to breed in the spring.  At this time, they undergo an annual molt, during which they are rendered flightless
  • Only species of puffin found in the Atlantic Ocean
  • Named the official bird of the Canadian Province of Newfoundland and Labrador
  • Nest on islands and cliff faces to evade predators, such as arctic foxes.  Avian predators include gulls and skuas, which will also rob puffins of their catches
  • Often swim on the surface, but can dive underwater, using its wings for propulsion
  • Threats to the species include oil spills and loss of food sources due to overfishing; most major nesting colonies are protected to prevent disturbance
  • Reintroduction program spear-headed by the National Audubon Society (Project Puffin) has led to the reintroduction of the species in Maine
  • Three subspecies recognized, varying in their size; the northern subspecies F. a. naumanni is the larest, F. a. grabae is the smallest, and F. a. arctica is intermediate
  • Latin name translates to "Little Friar of the Arctic"

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