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What is a Tufted Puffin?

Alex Paul
Alex Paul

The tufted puffin is a species of seabird that is commonly found in the northern regions of the Pacific Ocean. Tufted puffins are one of three types of puffin — the other two being the horned and Atlantic puffins. The birds have a largely black body and a thick red beak. Tufted puffins also have a distinctive yellow tuft that is found on both the males and females of the species. Some of the regions where the birds can be found include Alaska, British Columbia and the Kuril Islands.

The tufted puffin was discovered and officially recorded toward the middle of the 1700s. It is thought that this type of puffin is closely related in genetic terms to a bird known as the rhinoceros Auklet, which is another seabird that lives in the north Pacific Ocean. Of the three puffin species, the tufted puffin is probably the most straightforward to recognize due to its yellow tufts and large beak.

A tufted puffin's diet might occasionally include small squid.
A tufted puffin's diet might occasionally include small squid.

Tufted puffins range in size although generally they grow to around 15 inches (35 cm) in length. The wingspan is around the same, although the average size depends on the region that the puffin inhabits. Male tufted puffins are usually slightly bigger than females. Like many other similar seabirds, the puffin’s wings are not suitable for flying but are perfect for swimming and diving.

Tufted puffins tend to nest in dense colonies on small islands.
Tufted puffins tend to nest in dense colonies on small islands.

The tufted puffin lives largely off a diet of fish and hence the birds are masters of diving. Even so, the birds are also known to eat other water creatures such as squid. Although the birds tend to nest in dense colonies on small islands, the feeding grounds don’t necessarily have to be located close to these regions. To feed chicks, adult birds will store fish in their beaks before carrying them back to the breeding ground.

Tufted puffins are prey for a number of different animals. For example, birds such as bald eagles are commonly seen attacking the bids. Arctic foxes also prey on puffins. For this reason, the puffins will often try to breed on ground that is difficult for mammals to access in order to reduce the risk of becoming prey. Some islands that are chosen as breeding grounds for the puffins are also completely free of mammals.

Of the three species of puffin, two live in the north Pacific while the Atlantic puffin likes in the north Atlantic. The tufted puffin is largely independent of the horned puffin although there is some overlap in territory. All three species of puffin have a similar diet and breeding behavior.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Tufted Puffin and where can it be found?

The Tufted Puffin is a striking seabird known for its bold black and white plumage and distinctive golden tufts of feathers that appear during the breeding season. Native to the North Pacific Ocean, these birds breed along coastal cliffs and islands from California to Alaska, extending to the coasts of Russia and Japan. They spend most of their lives at sea, only coming ashore to breed.

How does the Tufted Puffin differ from other puffin species?

Compared to its Atlantic relatives, the Tufted Puffin is larger and has unique yellow tufts that sweep back from its crown during the breeding season. Its bill is also brightly colored in shades of orange and red. While Atlantic Puffins have a more upright posture, Tufted Puffins are often seen in a more horizontal stance when on land.

What does the Tufted Puffin eat and how does it hunt?

Tufted Puffins are adept divers, using their wings to 'fly' underwater in pursuit of fish, squid, and crustaceans. They can dive to depths of up to 200 feet, though they typically forage much shallower. According to studies, they can carry several fish crosswise in their bills at once, thanks to specialized spines on their palate that help hold prey.

How do Tufted Puffins breed and raise their young?

Tufted Puffins are monogamous and return to the same breeding sites each year. They nest in burrows dug into soil or crevices in rocks. A single egg is laid per season, and both parents share incubation duties for about six weeks. After hatching, the chick is fed by its parents for another six weeks until it's ready to fledge.

Are Tufted Puffins threatened or endangered?

While not currently listed as endangered, Tufted Puffins are considered vulnerable in certain areas due to threats like oil spills, overfishing, and climate change. Conservation efforts are in place to monitor populations and protect their habitats. The IUCN Red List categorizes them as Least Concern, but local populations may be at risk.

What conservation efforts are in place to protect Tufted Puffins?

Conservation efforts for Tufted Puffins include habitat protection, pollution regulation, and fisheries management to ensure sustainable prey availability. Organizations and researchers also conduct population monitoring and research to better understand the impacts of environmental changes. Protected areas and marine reserves play a crucial role in safeguarding the breeding grounds of these charismatic seabirds.

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    • A tufted puffin's diet might occasionally include small squid.
      By: hiphoto39
      A tufted puffin's diet might occasionally include small squid.
    • Tufted puffins tend to nest in dense colonies on small islands.
      By: tanyapuntti
      Tufted puffins tend to nest in dense colonies on small islands.