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Puffin Facts: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Lauren Scott

Lauren has a Master's degree in special education and has taught for more than 10 years.

This lesson introduces you to the unique and colorful puffin. You will learn what they look like, where they live, and how they care for their babies.

What Are Puffins?

Puffins are seabirds that spend most of their lives on or near the water. There are at least three different species, or types, of puffins. The Atlantic Puffin is known for its bright orange bill and orange feet. The Tufted Puffin has yellow feathers that sweep back from the top of its head. The Horned Puffin looks like it has horns above its eyes, and has a yellow bill. There might be a fourth species of puffin called the 'Rhinoceros Auklet'. Some scientists say it is a kind of puffin, but others say it is a close relative.

Atlantic puffins gather in large groups, called colonies, on rocky shores.
Atlantic puffins

Adult puffins are about 10 inches tall, and weigh less than half a pound. They have white bellies and faces with black wings, and have webbed feet that help them swim. Puffins develop thick, strong bills as they grow up. The bill is a brighter color during breeding season than it is the rest of the year. They start breeding when they are about 5 years old, and can live over 20 years.

Where Do Puffins Live?

All puffins live in the northern hemisphere, which is the northern half of the planet. Atlantic puffins live along the coasts of Canada, the northeastern United States, Iceland, and Greenland. Horned puffins, tufted puffins, and rhinoceros auklets live in the North Pacific Ocean. They can be found along the coasts of Alaska, western Canada, and Asia. The rhinoceros auklet sometimes travels as far south as central California.

A Horned Puffin balances on a cliff edge.
Horned Puffin

Puffin Diet

Puffins eat lots of fish! Their bills are great for scooping up smaller fish, like herring. They will dive underwater for about 20-30 seconds to look for food. Puffins use their wings like paddles to push them through the surf.

Puffins use their large bills to snap up large mouthfuls of fish.
puffin fishing

Nests and Babies

Puffins use their feet and bills to dig out nests in rocky cliffs. The female lays one egg per year, and the parents take turns guarding the nest over the spring and summer. A baby Puffin is called a puffling. Once the puffling hatches, the parents take turns feeding it small fish. It will leave the nest when it is about 6 weeks old.

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