Puffin

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F. arctica
F. cirrhata
F. corniculata
For prehistoric species, see article text.

Puffins are any of three small species of auk (or alcids) in the bird genus Fratercula with a brightly coloured beak during the breeding season. These are pelagic seabirds that feed primarily by diving in the water. They breed in large colonies on coastal cliffs or offshore islands, nesting in crevices among rocks or in burrows in the soil. Two species, the Tufted Puffin and Horned Puffin, are found in the North Pacific Ocean, while the Atlantic Puffin, is found in the North Atlantic Ocean.

All puffin species have predominantly black or black and white plumage, a stocky build, and large beaks. They shed the colourful outer parts of their bills after the breeding season, leaving a smaller and duller beak. Their short wings are adapted for swimming with a flying technique under water. In the air, they beat their wings rapidly (up to 400 times per minute)[1] in swift flight, often flying low over the ocean's surface.

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Taxonomy

The Rhinoceros Auklet (Cerorhinca monocerata) has sometimes been included in the genus Fratercula,[2] and some authors place the Tufted Puffin in the genus Lunda.[3] The puffins and the Rhinoceros Auklet are closely related, together comprising the subfamily Fraterculini.[4]

The genus name Fratercula is derived from Latin and means "little brother", a reference to the black and white plumage, which resembles monastic robes. The English name "puffin" was originally applied to the Manx Shearwater which (in 1652) was known as the "Manks Puffin". Puffin is an Anglo-Norman word (Middle English pophyn or poffin)[5] for the cured carcasses of nestling Manx Shearwaters. The Atlantic Puffin acquired the name much later, possibly because of its similar nesting habits.[6] The name has been applied to the related Razorbill in Ireland.[5]

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