Tufted Puffin (Fratercula cirrhata)

Tufted Puffin

[order] CHARADRIIFORMES | [family] Alcidae | [latin] Fratercula cirrhata | [UK] Tufted Puffin | [FR] Macareux huppe | [DE] GelbschopfLund | [ES] | [NL] Kuifpapegaaiduiker


Genus Species subspecies Breeding Range Breeding Range 2 Non Breeding Range
Syrrhaptes cirrhata
Fratercula cirrhata
Fratercula cirrhata
Fratercula cirrhata EU, NA n Pacific coasts n PO

Physical charateristics

In the winter, as puffins prepare for spring breeding, their colors become more decorative, presumably to attract mates. During this time they develop a brownish-black body, with some white feathers lining the underside of the wing, a white face and glossy, yellow plumes above and behind eye. The bill is mostly bright red, with yellow and sometimes green markings. When breeding ends in the early summer, puffins lose their plumes, the bright colors of the bill turn to a dull reddish-brown,and the belly is speckled with some pale brown flecks. Their legs and feet are red or orange-red throughout the year.

Listen to the sound of Tufted Puffin

[audio:http://www.aviflevoland.nl/sounddb/T/Tufted Puffin.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 37 cm wingspan max.: 42 cm
size min.: 37 cm size max.: 42 cm
incubation min.: 40 days incubation max.: 53 days
fledging min.: 45 days fledging max.: 53 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 1  
      eggs max.: 1  


Eurasia, North America : North Pacific coasts


Although puffins spend a majority of the year on the ocean, they build their nests on the shores of islands and coastal regions. They require shores with steep, grassy, sloping land with soil that allows them to burrow. In more rocky areas, puffins build their nests in the rock and on cliff faces. They prefer high places that allow them to swoop down and gain momentum. Their stubby wings make it difficult for them to take flight from water or land without help. They prefer secluded areas where some protection is offered by their surroundings. Their burrows are typically two to six feet long, and four to six inches in diameter. In highly populated colonies, the burrows of two or three of the animals sometimes run together.


During the period prior to egg laying, large groups of puffins congregate off-shore from their nesting colony and engage in intense courtships and frequent copulations. Similar behaviors occur on land at the same time, with puffins courting mates through skypointing (flying straight upwards), strutting, and billing (two birds rubbing their bills together).
Each female puffin lays one off-white egg, sometimes with faint blue and brown markings, usually between late April and early June. Eggs produced later than June are unlikely to produce fledglings. The peak egg-laying period usually lasts about two weeks in each colony. Both parents help with incubation, which last betweeen 40 and 53 days.
Once the chicks hatch, their growth rate is variable between colonies and from year to year. The difference is dependent on the feeding conditions of their location. Both parents take turns bringing food to the chicks, which happens two to three times daily, and most frequently in the morning and early evening. Chicks remain in the burrow and rely on their parents until they are fledged, which usually happens 45-55 days after hatching. There is no post-fledging parental care, and the puffling first leaves the nest for the open sea alone and at night. Young puffins usually do not return to the colony for almost two years, spending all their time at sea. Puffins become sexually mature at the age of three, but most do not mate until they’re four.

Feeding habits

Tufted puffins are primarily offshore feeders. During nesting, and when food is in abundance, they may feed inshore. The diet of chicks is almost entirely small fish, while the adults’ diets are more diverse. Adults prey mostly on anchovies and other small fish, but also eat squid, octopus, crabs, zooplankton, and jellyfish.

When hunting for fish, puffins usually attack fish in schools.
Puffins fly very close the the water and feed by diving under the water catching their prey in their mouths. They can stay underwater for 20 to 30 seconds using their wings to swim. When taking food to their young, they usually hold about 10 fish in their mouths while returning to the nest, but they have been observed carrying up to 6o fish in their bills at one time. Puffins use their tongues to hold fish against the spiny palate in their mouth while opening their beak to catch more fish.


This species has a very large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
Tufted puffins are Northern Pacific sea birds that spend a majority of the year over the Pacific Ocean, but nest along coastlines from lower California to Alaska, and across the ocean from Japan to the shores of northeastern Asia.
Tufted Puffin status Least Concern


Winter at sea well offshore, often to N Pacific, normally adjacent to breeding areas except N populations, which move relatively long distances S through Bering sea in to N Pacific. Post breeding dispersal widespread, occurring mostly solitary or in pairs, rarely in flocks, at very low densities, some birds moving S to waters off S Japan and S California. Returns to colonies in late Apr and May, with spring migratory movements probably beginning late Feb through Mar, but precise details of pattern and timing unknown, Spring and autumn movements probably complex, requiring further examination.

Distribution map

Tufted Puffin distribution range map


Title Nestling growth and parental provisioning of Tufted Puffins (Fratercula cirrhala) on Triangle Island, British Columbia
Author(s): Gjerdrum, C.
Abstract: I studied the reproductive performance of tufted p..[more]..
Source: Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC.

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Author(s): Brianne Addison et al.
Abstract: In spite of their putative importance in the evolu..[more]..
Source: The Auk 124(1):63-70, 2007

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Title Ornaments and overflight behaviour of Tufted Puffins (Fratercula
cirrhata) breeding on Triangle Island, British Columbia.
Author(s): Blackburn, G.
Abstract: Tufted puffins (Fratercula cirrhata) are unusual a..[more]..
Source: Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC. 74 pp

download full text (pdf)

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