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Monday, January 21, 2013

Atlantic Puffins

Atlantic Puffins in Elliston, Newfoundland
When we visited Newfoundland this summer, we found a wonderful bird called the Atlantic Puffin.  These funny birds are often called sea parrots. 

Puffins are sea birds.  They are very special in the bird family.  They are one of a few birds that have solid bones.  This makes them great divers.  It also makes it hard for them to fly. 

Because their bones are heavy, they fly close to the ground.  Puffins must flap their wings 300-400 times per minute to fly.  They don't land very well either.  Most of the time, they crash or tumble onto the grass or into the sea.

We saw many young puffins practicing flying when we visited Elliston's Puffin Viewing Site.  They flapped their wings until they were airborne for a few minutes.  Then they would hover back to land.  Here's a short video of some of the puffins that we saw:

Puffins may not be good fliers but they are very strong swimmers.  They dive deep into the water to catch fish.  They normally catch 10 fish per dive.  Sometimes they catch as many as 60 fish in one dive!  Puffin teeth point backwards and that helps them to catch lots of fish.

Puffin Colony near Elliston, Newfoundland
Puffins nest in colonies on rocky islands.  They dig burrows into the cliff side.  They lay one or two eggs in their burrow.

The mother and father puffin care for their baby for about six weeks, until the baby fledges (learns to fly).  After the young puffins fledge, the flock flies out to live at sea for the rest of the year.  They may live at sea for eight to nine months each year.

Puffin burrows in Elliston, Newfoundland
More than half of all Atlantic puffins breed on the eastern shores of Newfoundland.  A small colony also lives in the United States, off the coast of Maine.  

For more information about Atlantic puffins, just click on one of these two sites:
Here's a a puffin picture for you to color:  Color a Puffin

You can also check out these great books about puffins from your local library:
  • Atlantic Puffin:  Little Brother of the North, by Kristin Domm
  • Project Puffin:  How We Brought Puffins Back to Egg Rock, by Stephen W. Kress

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