What is a Tufted Puffin?

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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.

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