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Tufted Puffin
Fratercula cirrhata.

Tufted Puffins breed on islands and rocky cliffs in the arctic waters of the North Pacific, which includes the Arctic, Bering, and Okhotsk seas.  They are most commonly seen flying near land, coming or leaving the breeding colonies to feed their young.  Tufted Puffins are the size of pigeons, but weigh nearly twice as much (1 kg, 2 lbs)!  In flight they look like flying cigars, moving very quickly close to water.  They feed by diving, then flying under water with their wings in pursuit of small minnow-like fish.  Puffins hold the fish in their bills until they return to the nest to feed the puffin chicks.  Sometimes a parent puffin will carry a dozen fish carefully arranged head-to-tail in their bills!  How do they do that?  No one knows, because no one has watched puffins long enough under water. 

Puffins breed in holes they dig into the ground and build their nests.  Puffin chicks will come out only when they are ready to fly; before then they will never see the light or go outside.  Puffins breed in colonies, some with only a few nests and some very large.  The largest colony is found on Talan Island in the Okhotsk Sea and has more than one million nests!


Tufted Puffin
Photo © Eric P. Hoberg

19th Century Naturalist
Edward Nelson Recounts:

"This species has the same distribution as the other puffin species but is found in very small numbers as compared with the host of the other species.  Their habits and migrations are also the same. They are extremely abundant about the Commander Islands where the natives capture them in hand-nets.  The skins of both this and the other species are used by the Eskimo of the coast and islands for clothing, and the silky tufts of cirrhata are sewed into ornamental work by the Aleuts."

This bird lays 5 single rough grayish-white eggs, measuring about 2.80 or 2.85 by 1.90 or 1.95. The egg is usually laid in a small depression in the damp earth at the bottom of a crevice in the rooks. The young when taken in hand try to bite and peep loudly."

Tufted Puffin
Hand colored from nature by
Edward Nelson

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