All About Puffins

All About Puffins

There are lots of things I love, but nature and wildlife is right there at the top of my list. Until last year I had never, ever seen a Puffin in the wild. I had only ever seen them in books before, and for some reason I imagined them to be similar in size to Penguins!! Haha silly me!! They are the cutest little birds ever, growing to about 10 inches tall.

The word Puffin is thought to come from the word ‘puff’ which refers to swollen. And it is the puffin chick that contributes best to this name because of its round, puffed look resulting from its dense cover of down feathers - an adaptation for retaining body heat while the parent is off fishing.  They actually look like little puff balls with beak and feet.                               

Puffins are also known as "clown of the ocean" and "sea parrot" because of their clown-like facial markings and colorful beak (more like that of toucans). Those beaks are very useful though as they can hold several fish at a time to take back to feed the Pufflings. The record in Britain for how many fish a Puffin can hold in it's beak is a whopping 62!! Wow, that's impressive!!!

Someone told me about Bempton Cliffs being a wonderful place to get to see Puffins and I have to say I was not disappointed. They arrive there to breed around the end of March and stay until mid August when the baby Puffling has fledged and they are ready to go back out to sea. As they keep the same mate and the same burrows every season they come back to Bempton Cliffs year after year to breed. They only lay one egg a year so have to make sure it is well protected. This is why their burrows are 2 - 3 ft long and are on steep sea cliffs so predators can't easily reach them. 

Puffins don't usually start breeding until about 5 years old and they live to around 20 years old.  Their main natural predator is the Great Black-backed Gull. This Gull can catch an adult Puffin in mid-air. The Gull will circle high above the Puffin colony and pick out a solitary Puffin and catch it from behind by dive bombing the unwary Puffin. Herring Gulls like to steal the fish that the Puffin catches so if you spot a Puffin circling past it's burrow several times then it is probably waiting for the coast to be clear of Herring Gulls so that it can deliver it's haul of fish to the Puffling.

I personally find these birds fascinating and love the fact that there is a properly set up viewing station to witness these wonderful birds at Bempton Cliffs. It is a proper RSPB site with very well informed staff ready and willing to help answer any questions you may have on any of the birds that flock there (not just Puffins). They also have a shop and cafe there should you want refreshments. What more could you want from a fab day out in Yorkshire?! And it's only an hour away from Whitby!! I'll definitely be going back soon!!


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