10 Interesting Facts About Puffins – Exploring Northumberland, UK

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The puffin, colourful in both appearance and character, is a popular bird with photographers, bird watchers and tourists. And the Northern Hemisphere summer creates a number of opportunities for a closer look as they make their annual return to land for the breeding season.

Although more than half of the world’s puffin population breed near Iceland, there are a handful of colonies in the UK that are affordable, accessible and easily enjoyed over a weekend break.

One such location is the Farne Islands in Northumberland and I recently enjoyed my first visit to this wildlife haven as part of a 5-day mini break exploring the coast, castles and countryside of northeast England.

Around 35,000 pairs of puffins call the Farne Islands home during the English summer and they proved to be both entertaining to watch and captivating to photograph.

I’ll be sharing more about my visit in some upcoming posts, but in the meantime, here are some interesting facts about puffins that you may not know, including some photographs from my Farne Islands adventure.

 

10 Interesting Facts About Puffins

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1. Puffins are only found in the Northern Hemisphere, with 60% of the world’s population living near Iceland.

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2. Puffins are often called “Sea Parrots”, due to their colourful beak that fades to grey during the winter and is though to help attract potential mates.

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3. Puffins spend most of their lives at sea and are excellent swimmers, using their wings to “fly” through the water and their feet to steer. They only stay underwater for 20 or 30 seconds at a time, but can reach depths of up to 60 metres.

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4. Puffins return to land to breed during spring and summer, usually on rocky cliffs. They create their own burrows or nest underground in old rabbit holes, often returning to the same one each year with their lifelong mate.

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5. After the female lays a single egg, both male and female share the parenting duties. This begins with a 40-day incubation period, is followed by 45 days of feeding where they take turns bringing fish to the chick several times a day, and ends with abandonment as they return to sea, leaving the chick to fend for itself.

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6. Young puffins are called “pufflings” and spend the first 45 days of their lives in the burrows they hatch in, feeding constantly on the fish brought from the sea by both parents. As soon as they are able to fly, they head to sea where they spend 3-5 years learning the tools of the trade and searching for a mate, before their first return to land.

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7. Puffins hunt small fish like sand eels or herring. They have ridges at the top of their bill that allows them to hold the fish they have already caught whilst hunting for more. They can hold up to 10 fish in their beak at once.

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8. Puffins are part of the Auk family and are small birds, reaching only 30 centimetres in length.

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9. Despite their small size, puffins are strong in the air. They can reach speeds of more than 80 kilometres by flapping their wings up to 400 times per minute.

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10. Gulls are the main predator of puffins. They can often been seen hovering around the burrows within puffin colonies, trying to pull chicks, eggs or fish from their nest. They are also a threat in the air, stealing fish right from a puffin’s mouth or capturing a puffin mid-flight as chicks run the gauntlet out to sea.

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Kellie is a traveller and photographer who is most at home when exploring the world beyond it. Through the intersection of her travel, writing and photography passions, she shares her experiences to inspire others to create there own. The desire to live life instead of existing through it has introduced Kellie to inspirational locations throughout seven continents and from this a passion for landscape and wildlife photography has evolved. She feels a particular connection to the polar regions and Africa. You can see more of her photography at www.kellienetherwoodphotography.com

Comments

  1. Love this – “pufflings” for baby puffins. So cute! We can see how you could spend hours watching and photographing them. Janice fell in love with the penguins when visiting Antarctica with her mother. They spent hours sitting on the ice watching the penguin antics.

  2. I loved seeing your stunning photos and reading the interesting facts about puffins – some new info here! Thanks so much Kellie. Keep up the good work.

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