At a Glance

Very similar to the famous Atlantic Puffin, but with different bill colors and a longer fleshy 'horn' above each eye. Found mainly on islands around the coastline of Alaska, where pairs perch upright on rocks and stare quizzically at human visitors. In winter, likely to be on ocean waters far out of sight of land. Often found with the Tufted Puffin, but has a more northerly distribution in general, rarely wandering as far south as California.
Auks, Murres, Puffins, Upright-perching Water Birds
Low Concern
Coasts and Shorelines, Open Ocean
Alaska and The North, California, Northwest, Western Canada
Direct Flight, Erratic, Rapid Wingbeats

Range & Identification

Migration & Range Maps

Poorly known. Departs from vicinity of northern colonies in winter (when surrounding waters frozen solid). Some reportedly winter near Aleutians, others may be far out at sea. In some years, numbers found off California in spring, suggesting that they may have wintered very far offshore (perhaps hundreds of miles) and come closer to coast on northward migration. An "invasion" once reached the northwestern Hawaiian Islands.


14 1/2" (37 cm). Suggests Atlantic Puffin (no overlap in range) but has simpler bill pattern, more obvious fleshy "horn" above eye. In winter, adult's bill becomes smaller and plainer, face becomes gray. Immature's bill even thinner and darker.
About the size of a Crow, About the size of a Mallard or Herring Gull
Black, Orange, White, Yellow
Wing Shape
Pointed, Tapered
Tail Shape

Songs and Calls

Usually silent but utters harsh notes from its burrow.
Call Pattern
Falling, Flat, Rising
Call Type


Ocean, nesting colonially in burrows or crevices on sea cliffs. During summer usually on ocean waters fairly close to shore of nesting islands; at other seasons may be very far offshore. Nests mainly on rocky islands.



one. Dull white, usually with faint spots of gray, lavender, brown. Incubation is by both sexes, 38-43 days.


both parents feed nestling, carrying fish in bill and dropping them in nest or near entrance. Adults generally forage in waters close to colony, may make more frequent feeding visits than Tufted Puffins. Young depart from nest at about 38-44 days; unable to fly well at departure, they flutter or tumble down to water and swim out to sea, apparently independent from then on.

Feeding Behavior

Forages while swimming underwater. Swims rapidly through schools of small fish, catching them in bill.


mostly fish. Favors small fish, especially sand lance and capelin, also sticklebacks, smelt, and others. Food brought to young almost entirely fish. Adults also eat many squid, marine worms, and crustaceans.


Breeds in colonies on islands, usually with other species of auks. Nest site is in burrow in ground, 1-3' or longer, perhaps sometimes with two entrances; also in natural crevice in cliff or among boulders. Burrow (apparently excavated by both sexes) may be re-used in following years. Nest chamber may by lined with grasses or may be bare.

Climate Vulnerability

Conservation Status

Still abundant in Alaska, but undoubtedly has declined on some islands where foxes or rats have been introduced. Puffins are considered especially vulnerable to effects of oil spills.

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