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Puffin Photos

Horned Puffin on Round Island

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Horned Puffin Photos
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Round Island Puffins
Puffin Photos

Alaska is home to over 160 species of birds. Some stay all year long but the majority migrates at the approach of winter. Alaska is also privileged to have tropical-looking seabird: the Puffin. At Alaska Stock Images, you will find a wide variety of Alaska photos including Puffin photos. To find more pictures of Alaska or photos of Puffins, visit our search page.

Puffin Photos
Puffin seabird, Round Island Alaska
The Puffin is perhaps one of the most beloved and most recognizable sea birds in Alaska. As a major birding attraction on most wildlife tours, the Puffin has become somewhat of an ambassador for visiting tourists. There are two species of Puffins that live in Alaskan waters. The Horned Puffin and the Tufted Puffin belong to the Alcidae also includes many other birds found in Alaska such as the auks, auklets, murres, murrelets, and guillemots. Puffins spend most of their lives on the open sea and spend time on land when it is time to breed during the summer months. In Alaska, puffins can be viewed in many bird rookeries along coastal waters. The Horned Puffin is more prevalent but both species can be found all the way from Forrester Island in Southeast Alaska to Cape Lisburne on the Chukchi Sea in the far north.
Tufted Puffin photos
Tufted Puffin

The Puffin is most easily identifiable by its colorful and large bill. Because of its characteristic yellow, red, and orange bill, early sailors often referred to them as the "sea parrot." Unlike many species of birds, both males and females have the same markings.

In summer they have a back neck with white on the sides of the head and on their breast. The white breast is so distinctive that in one Eskimo language puffins are called katukh-puk, meaning "big white breast." The Horned Puffin is so called because it acquires in the summer a small, fleshy area above each eye that appears at a distance as a "horn." Adults are about 14 inches long and weigh about 1 1/4 pounds.

Tufted Puffins, on the other hand, do not acquire the fleshy horn but rather "tufts" of feathers curl back from each side of the head. They have dark, black bodies and white faces. Like the Horned Puffin, they have orange feet, and their bills are red and yellow.
Nesting ground for Puffins
Puffin nesting ground, Bristol Bay

Puffins generally arrive at Alaska waters and breeding rookeries during May (later for areas further north). Puffin's' feet have adapted over time to be webbed and have sharp claws that are allow Puffins to adeptly scratch out burrows. Like many seabirds, the Puffin nests underground and will dig their burrow three to four feet deep into the ground. If the ground is rocky or windblown with little soil available, Puffins will nest in pockets along cliff faces. In May, puffins arrive at the nesting grounds. Both species lay only a single, whitish-colored egg.

Puffin "flying" under water
Puffin "flying" underwater
Most birds spend the winter far offshore in the North Pacific Ocean and this includes young puffins that don't return to their colony until they are two years old. At 3, puffins are mature enough to breed, but more often it is not until they are four years of age that they are sure to breed. The lifespan of Puffins is still not entirely clear although some banded birds have been found still breeding at 10 years old and a few Atlantic Puffins have been known to live 39 years.

Perhaps one of the most unique and ironic attributes of a Puffin is its ability to swim underwater while flying can be a bit challenging. While fishing, they dive into the water right from the air continuing their "flight" under the surface where they flap half-folded wings for propulsion using their feet as underwater paddles. On land, puffins are agile and can stand and walk nimbly on their toes. However, as many visitors have witnessed, when a Puffin makes an effort to fly, it is much like watching a baby learning to walk or, perhaps more aptly, a bird that has eaten too much and cannot quite lift off the water.

Puffin seabird photos
Puffin seabird photos

Books of Interest

Guide to the Birds of Alaska - Includes all 443 species of birds found in Alaska, with new, full-color photos of all regularly-occurring species. Contains a map of Alaska's six biogeographic regions, is organized by bird families, and details birds' field marks, status, distribution, behavior, similar species, voice, and habitat.

Puffin: In a small village - On the Gulf of Alaska, a young child sits on the rocky beach watching birds fall from the sky to feed off the ocean.

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