What Do Puffins Eat?

Category: Birds.

A puffin, in case you didn’t know, is a quite curious and cute little bird that lives primarily in the North Pacific Ocean and the North Atlantic Ocean regions.

An adult Atlantic puffin flying home with sand eels to feed the chick. © Tony Wood.

Puffins are cute

Indeed they are, just like penguins. I have never seen a live puffin, but I am sure there are some conservatories somewhere with enthralled flocks of visitors, standing on their tippitoes, trying to get a glance at these little creatures. Their brightly colored beaks are a noticeable feature, and perfect for snapping up their food under the water.

Pelagic seabird family

The puffin is technically a member of the pelagic seabird family, typically short winged and short tailed. Think of the bird on a fruit loops cereal box, and you get an idea of what they look like.

A puffin’s diet

Puffins mainly like to gorge themselves upon small fish and the not-so-tasty sounding zooplankton. Among the types of fish that the puffins like to fill their bellies up with are herring, capelin, sprats, mollusks, sand eels and other small fish that live in the waters surrounding the colonies where the puffins spend most of their lives.

Adult Atlantic puffin with a beak full of fish. © The.Rohit.

Baby puffins

The puffin chicks strictly eat fish that have been fed to them by the adult puffins. The adult puffins spend their lives meandering the waters close to home for food. Puffins have also been known to eat squid and crustaceans, especially in the North Atlantic region.

A resilient hunter

When foraging for food in the waters, the adult puffin dives to depths of over 80 feet (25m), making them an extremely resilient hunter, and what must be harsh conditions to be sure. It is not surprising then that puffins have an unusually long lifespan for a bird. The oldest puffin in captivity is 31 years old.

Puffin cams

Puffins are so popular that they enjoy a godlike status within the bird loving community. There are even puffin camsthat you can view online. If you are interested, the best time of year to view puffins in their natural habitat, including feeding their young, is from April onward.

Puffin tours

For the dedicated puffin enthusiasts, there are even puffin vacations arranged by hardy travel agencies ready to make the journey to the North Atlantic. Just remember, I don’t think the airlines will let you bring one back with you in your luggage.

More on seabirds

  1. Penguin’s diet
  2. Seagull’s diet

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