can you have a puffin as a pet The Atlantic puffin whose scientific name is Fratercula arctica is also commonly known as a common puffin. It is characterized by being a species of crateriform birds belonging to the Alcidae family.
In some places it is called ” sea parrot ” or ” sea clown ” thanks to its striking beak, which is the only puffin native to the Atlantic Ocean.
This bird looks similar to the penguin’s colors, however, one of its distinctive features is its beak, which turns matt gray during winter, but with the arrival of spring, it regains its color to attract potential partners.
It also represents the official bird symbol in Canada, specifically in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. If you want to know a little more about this curious bird, I invite you to continue reading and discover its most interesting features.
The Atlantic puffin is distributed mostly in Iceland, with 50% of the world’s population there. A large number of specimens can also be seen in the Arctic Circle, North America, Maine, and northern France.
During the winter it remains in the waters of North America, covering from the edge of the ice banks to southern Maryland, always staying away from the coast, very close to the shore of the continental shelf. There are even records of several copies that have been diverted further south until they reach Florida.
Individuals living in Europe usually migrate to warmer waters, approaching northwest Africa and the Western Mediterranean.
They can travel long distances, even in eastern Canada young specimens from Iceland and Europe have been sighted. It is characterized by being a pelagic species during the winter season since it frequents the open sea and only goes to the coast in case the weather conditions are not favorable.
When the breeding season arrives, it does move to the coasts to build the nests that will be located on rocky cliffs.
puffin Morphological characteristics
The body of the Atlantic puffin from its beak to the tail is approximately 28 to 30 cm long, its neck is thick, while its wings and tail are short. Its wingspan is around 47 to 63 cm. It presents a slight sexual dysmorphia being the male a little longer than the female.
A bright black predominates in its body, covering the area of the head, the crown, neck, wings, and tail; Its neck is also covered by a black stripe. At the end of the breeding season, this black plumage usually loses its shine and turns brown.
On the sides of his head, a pale gray color can be observed, it extends over a large part of his face, to the upper edge of the neck. His eyes are surrounded by a small triangular patch of callous skin, which is grayish-blue. Its iris is dark blue or brown and is bordered by a red ring.
It has a rather striking peak, being this wide and triangular, although seen from above it takes a narrow shape; its size varies according to the age of the puffin and over time its structure usually changes slightly, creating a crease in the base, while the upper edge becomes curved.
It is also quite strong, which is why the puffin has a powerful bite. The tip of the beak is orange-red, while the half near the head is pale gray. Both parts are separated by a yellow V-shaped crest next to a fleshy strip that surrounds the base of the beak. The area that joins the jaws is wrinkled and yellow in color.
The lower part of the puffin body, along with the chest, belly and its “shorts” are white. Its legs are short, and give it an upright posture on the ground, because they are located in the back of the body. Both are bright orange and contrast sharply with their sharp black claws.
At the end of the breeding season the beak takes on a less wide appearance, with a less bright tip and its gray base becomes darker.
The rectangular figures surrounding his eyes disappear and they acquire a round shape. It changes the plumage of the neck and head, while the pale gray of its face adopts a darker hue.
The young specimens have plumage similar to that of the adult, although normally the color of this one is more tenuous, its face is a much darker gray, while the legs and the tip of the beak are yellow-brown. As they develop, their beak becomes wider, their face paler and the legs turn orange, just like their beak.
The Atlantic puffin experiences a molt per year while it is at sea, this usually occurs between the months of March and January; during this stage change all the primary feathers and stop flying completely for a month or two.
It usually presents solitary habits, although during the breeding season it meets in colonies. He usually spends much of his day grooming himself, to keep his feathers tidy. While at sea, the soft low plumage remains dry and provides thermal insulation.
The dark coloration in the upper part of its body allows an effective camouflage before aerial predators, which will be unable to perceive it against the dark background of water.
In the case of submarine attackers, they will not be able to distinguish it easily thanks to their white coloration at the bottom, since it can be mixed with the bright sky above the waves. They are also excellent swimmers and use their wings to propel themselves underwater, making movements similar to those they do to fly.
The Atlantic puffin is extremely fast, can fly at 80 km per hour and is capable of flapping its wings up to 400 times per minute. It has a direct flight, which is normally around 10 meters above sea level. Normally it is silent while swimming, although flying usually produces slight purrs.
It is also quiet when it is in the mating colony, but this only applies when it lands on the ground, since in the burrow it emits vocalizations that resemble the sounds produced by an electric saw.
Puffin colonies tend to be more active at night; in these, the domain is demonstrated with an upright posture, an extremely slow walk and the feathers of the chest are kept spongy.
In the case of submissive birds, these tend to keep their bodies horizontally, sneak and walk with their heads down among the dominant specimens.
When the sun goes down, the birds fly to the sea and spend the night there. Rarely do colonies settle in different places, since the Atlantic puffin only nests in places where others have been present.
Atlantic Puffin Feeding
The Atlantic puffin diet is made up of crustaceans, marine worms, mollusks, and fish. It is able to ingest a fish up to 18 cm, although it usually eats smaller prey that is around 7 cm. To capture them, he detects them from the air or by immersing his head in the water.
Once found, dive immediately and start diving until you catch it. It transports them in its beak to the surface and once there swallows them quickly to avoid parasitic seabirds.
The feeding of the young consists of small fish among which are chaplain, herring, cod, and ammodytes. Parents can catch up to 20 fish with their beaks to feed them.
Reproduction of the arctic Fratercula
The Atlantic puffin breeding season takes place during the months of April and August. Upon reaching this time they land on the coasts to form the breeding colonies; they do this at the highest point of the cliff, in order to protect themselves from terrestrial predators, although in these places the chicks are endangered by attacks by birds and seagulls.
The puffin is monogamous, that is, they maintain only one pair in each breeding season, they even take care of the whole.
During the procession the puffins rub and bump their beaks, this being a ritual that the ornithologists call billing. This type of demonstration usually attracts an enthusiastic crowd of other specimens to observe. Sometimes they also tend to sustain a kind of struggle on the surface of the water that, similarly, attracts other couples to copulate.
They build burrows on rocky cliffs, they measure about 90 cm and are covered with various materials that parents gather, from algae, herbs to feathers. The female lays only one egg and the incubation period lasts about 40 days.
In this period of time, the couple takes turns incubating. They usually meet in the same place in the burrow when a new reproductive season arrives and to guide their journey they often use different reference points such as sounds, smells, environments, the Earth’s magnetic fields and even the stars themselves.
They tend to aggressively defend their nests, even coming up with disputes over their property; during these struggles, they usually spread their wings and open their beaks, but they usually come to an end when one specimen bites the neck of the other.
The chicks will develop their plumage and 75% of their final weight by spending 34 to 50 days, and this will always depend on the availability of food. The breeding of the Atlantic puffin will always remain inside the burrow during the first days, even, for this reason, it will defecate at the entrance of it.
He also seems to have some intolerance towards the light until he develops all his feathers. It will be fed by their parents throughout their growth, even when the food begins to run out.
breeding Atlantic puffin
When the moment arrives when the chick has to leave the nest, it emerges from it by stripping the earth and revealing its youthful plumage. It has a relatively small beak and does not have white spots on the face, unlike adult specimens.
It will start from the burrow during the night because at that time it runs less risk to predators; He will go to the sea and because he will not be able to fly correctly, the task of descending the cliff will be quite complicated.
When entering the water, paddle using its wings and when it gets dark it will be approximately 3 kilometers away from the coast. During this journey he will not join with others of his kind, and after 2 to 3 years he will return to the earth, after having learned to fend for himself.
The Atlantic puffin reaches its stage of sexual maturity at 4 to 5 years and it is at this time that it will choose a couple with which it will mate throughout its life. The life expectancy of this bird is 30 years.
Atlantic Puffin in Danger of Extinction
The Atlantic puffin since the 19th century has suffered great decreases with respect to its populations, as a result of the capture of its eggs and adult specimens. As the twentieth century arrived, the number of individuals continued to decline in the areas of reproduction, both in North America and in Europe.
The introduction of predators such as rats has also significantly undermined the stability of populations in the nesting islands.
It is also threatened by the effects of the loss of trophic resources, due to the contamination of water by hydrocarbons, overfishing and, above all, global warming; This means an alarming population decline in some regions that cover its range.
In several colonies in Norway, Iceland, and Scotland, no offspring have been registered for several years. It is estimated that water heating also seems to significantly affect the food chain.
According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) the Atlantic puffin is in a threatening situation and classified as a Vulnerable species ( VU ).
The Atlantic Puffin Protection Project promoted by Audubon has been dedicated since the 1970s to introduce puffins in its old nesting islands off the coast of Maine, which is a strategy that has been successful since the beginning.
Currently, the use of different innovative strategies is being implemented in Baja California, which includes the use of recordings, lures, and mirrors, with the aim of attracting birds to sites suitable for nesting.
These measures seek to ensure a clean marine habitat, as well as a reliable food source; protecting Atlantic puffins by protecting and restoring their reproductive colonies.
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