The Tufted Puffin (Fratercula cirrhata) is a relatively abundant medium-sized pelagic seabird in the auk (Alcidae) family found throughout the North Pacific Ocean. It is one of three species of puffin that make up the Fratercula genus and is easily recognizable by its thick red bill and yellow tufts.
The Tufted Puffin was first described in 1769 by German zoologist Peter Simon Pallas. Its generic name is derived from the Latin Fratercula 'little brother' and the specific epithet, cirrhata 'tufted'. Since it may be more closely related to the Rhinoceros Auklet than the other puffins it is sometimes placed in the genus Lunda.
Tufted Puffins are around 35 cm (15 in) in length with a similar wingspan and weigh about three quarters of a kilogram (1.6 lbs). Birds from the western Pacific population are somewhat larger than those from the eastern Pacific, and male birds tend to be slightly larger than females.
They are mostly black with a white facial patch, and, typical of other puffin species, feature a very thick bill which is mostly red with some yellow and occasionally green markings. Their most distinctive feature and namesake are the yellow tufts (Latin: cirri) that appear annually on birds of both sexes as the summer reproductive season approaches. Their feet become bright red and their face also becomes bright white in the summer. During the feeding season, the tufts moult off and the plumage, beak and legs lose much of their lustre.
As among other alcids, the wings are relatively short, adapted for diving, underwater swimming and capturing prey rather than gliding, of which they are incapable. As a consequence, they have thick, dark myoglobin-rich breast muscles adapted for a fast and aerobically strenuous wing-beat cadence, which they can nonetheless maintain for long periods of time.
Juvenile puffins resemble winter adults, but with a grey-brown breast, white belly, and a shallow, brown bill.
Distribution and habitat
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