Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Tufted Puffin

Fratercula cirrhata
Meet the Tufted Puffin, a seabird from the Northern Pacific that is the largest of the Puffin species.

These birds are best identified by their breeding plumage, which shows up only during the summer months. Their normally yellow/orange bills and feet turn bright red, their black faces change to white, and both sexes grow large yellow feather tufts.

The Tufted Puffins breed in large colonies-- some of them have literally tens of thousands of pairs! They build very crude nests, placing a soft lining of feathers and plants in a rock crevice, or in a burrows scratched out with their feet. Only one egg is laid at a time, and the chick is incubated and cared for by both parents.

Tufted Puffins are much better in the water than they are on land. They are able to dive after their fishy food, and they typically eat their meals while still under water. The exception to this is when they have offspring to take care of. A Puffin parent can hold as many as 20 fish horizontally in their beak in order to take the food home to feed their chick.

Tufted Puffins are currently listed as being of Least Concern, but their population was not always doing so well.These birds thrive in areas that are free of mammalian predators, which unfortunately were introduced to several Puffin islands during the 19th and 20th centuries. The mammals destroyed the Puffin colonies, but efforts to remove the invasive hunters have allowed the Puffins to rebound spectacularly. Native peoples have also traditionally hunted the Puffins for their meat, feathers, and hides, but the practice is now discouraged (or even illegal) in many areas.

IUCN Status : Least Concern
Location : North Pacific
Size : Length around 15in (35cm)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Aves -- Order : Charadriiformes
Family : Alcidae -- Genus : Fratercula -- Species : F. cirrhata

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