Puffins: Clowns of the Sea

Photograph by Robert Royse

Puffins: Clowns of the Sea

Whether they live along the Pacific or the Atlantic coast, puffins are unique seabirds.

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Published: 08/31/2012

This story comes to you through a partnership between Audubon and BirdNote, a show that airs daily on public radio stations nationwide.

Although not a first-rate vocalist, the bird making this groan-like call is one of the most recognizable to the eye. These sounds belong to the tufted puffin.

Puffins are icons of the seabird world. With clown-like faces and huge, multicolored bills, they stand upright on sea cliffs along the northern oceans. Tufted puffins nest on islands and rough coastlines, from the Channel Islands of Southern California across the north Pacific to Siberia. If you see a puffin on the East Coast, it will be the Atlantic puffin. But you'll have to go a long way north, because they nest on islands in the Gulf of Maine and beyond.

A flexible hinge at the back of its jaw allows a puffin to hold a whole row of fish crosswise in its bill. And it can catch still more, even as it swims swiftly under water. And that's not all. The puffin uses its massive bill to dig nest-burrows. The tufted puffin's burrow might be up to six feet deep.

You, too, can dig deeper. Whether you missed an episode of BirdNote or want to listen again, you'll find all previous episodes on our website, BirdNote.org. I'm Michael Stein.

Call of the Tufted Puffin provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Recorded by E.S. Booth; Ambient wave sound provided by C. Peterson; Producer: John Kessler; Executive Producer: Chris Peterson
(c) 2012 Tune In to Nature.org     July 2012     Narrator: Michael Stein

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Type: Author | From: Audubon Magazine