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BIODIVERSITY REFERENCE
 
   Fratercula arctica (L.)   
 
Atlantic Puffin


Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves – birds


British distribution: Locally common around the British coast, except in the south-east, breeding mainly in north and west Scotland.
World distribution: Breeding in the northern North Atlantic, especially Iceland. Britain and Ireland have about 8% of the world population. Related species around the coasts of the North Pacific.


Atlantic Puffin
Atlantic Puffin, Fratercula arctica, Skomer, Pembrokeshire, May 2009.

The Atlantic Puffin is a small seabird of the auk family (Alcidae), spending most of the year on the open ocean and coming to land to breed in large colonies on cliffs, nesting in burrows, especially on off-shore islands and remote headlands. Its numbers in breeding colonies tend to fluctuate and there are concerns that overfishing (by humans) for small fish such as sprats may be affecting its food supply.


Puffin
Puffin
Puffin
Puffin
Atlantic Puffin, Fratercula arctica, Skomer, Pembrokeshire, May 2009.


It is a bird that attracts attention and affection, having a vaguely comic air and being relatively approachable at its nesting sites. In Shetland its image is everywhere. (The author recommends the Puffin Café in Lerwick.)

Puffin
Group of puffins, Hermaness, Shetland, 1995.

In the Faeroe Islands, where the inhabitants have a more immediate tradition of surviving on anything and everything the seas and their inhospitable islands have to offer, the puffin is still regarded, more than anything else, as food. Roast puffin features prominently on hotel menus, while, more mundanely, puffin and chips is still, no doubt, on offer at the takeaway in Tórshavn town square. The beaks and feet find their way to gift shops where the less squeamish tourist has a wide choice of puffin ear-rings, puffin brooches and the like (though they may find, back home, that the number of occasions on which it is socially acceptable to wear bits of dead puffin may prove limited). Puffins are still abundant there.


Reference
•   Harris, M.P. (1993) in D.W. Gibbons et al., The New Atlas of Breeding Birds in Britain and Ireland: 1988-1991, T & AD Poyser, London, pp.230-231.



© A.J. Silverside
Page first hosted at www-biol.paisley.ac.uk/bioref/, September 1998; transferred to lastdragon.org with minor edits and new photographs, October 2010
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