World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Tufted puffin

Article Id: WHEBN0000031190
Reproduction Date:

Title: Tufted puffin  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Puffin, Auk, Chiswell Islands, Castle Rock National Wildlife Refuge, Happy Feet Two
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Tufted puffin

Tufted puffin
Breeding adult, St. Paul Island, Alaska (USA)
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Charadriiformes
Family: Alcidae
Subfamily: Fraterculinae
Genus: Fratercula
Species: F. cirrhata
Binomial name
Fratercula cirrhata
(Pallas, 1769)

Alca cirrhata Pallas, 1769
Lunda cirrhata (Pallas, 1769)
Sagmatorrhina lathami Bonaparte, 1851

The tufted puffin (Fratercula cirrhata) also known as crested puffin, is a relatively abundant medium-sized pelagic seabird in the auk (Alcidae) family found throughout the North Pacific Ocean. It is one of three species of puffin that make up the Fratercula genus and is easily recognizable by its thick red bill and yellow tufts.


1895 portrait of breeding adult

Tufted puffins are around 35 cm (15 in) in length with a similar wingspan and weigh about three quarters of a kilogram (1.6 lbs). Birds from the western Pacific population are somewhat larger than those from the eastern Pacific, and male birds tend to be slightly larger than females.[2]

Adult in winter plumage

They are mostly black with a white facial patch, and, typical of other puffin species, feature a very thick bill which is mostly red with some yellow and occasionally green markings. Their most distinctive feature and namesake are the yellow tufts (Latin: cirri) that appear annually on birds of both sexes as the summer reproductive season approaches. Their feet become bright red and their face also becomes bright white in the summer. During the feeding season, the tufts moult off and the plumage, beak and legs lose much of their lustre.

As among other alcids, the wings are relatively short, adapted for diving, underwater swimming and capturing prey rather than gliding, of which they are incapable. As a consequence, they have thick, dark myoglobin-rich breast muscles adapted for a fast and aerobically strenuous wing-beat cadence, which they can nonetheless maintain for long periods of time.


Juvenile tufted puffins resemble winter adults, but with a grey-brown breast shading to white on the belly, and a shallow, yellowish-brown bill.[2] Overall, they resemble a horn-less and unmarked rhinoceros auklet (Cerorhinca monocerata).


The tufted puffin was first described in 1769 by German zoologist Peter Simon Pallas. Its generic name is derived from the Latin Fratercula "little brother", and the specific epithet cirrhata means "tufted".[3] Since it may be more closely related to the Rhinoceros Auklet than the other puffins, it is sometimes placed in the monotypic genus Lunda.

The juveniles, due to their similarity to C. monocerata, were initially mistaken for a distinct species of a monotypic genus, and named Sagmatorrhina lathami ("Latham's saddle-billed auk", from sagmata "saddle" and rhina "nose").

Distribution and Habitat

Tufted puffins form dense breeding colonies during the summer reproductive season from British Columbia, throughout southeastern Alaska and the Aleutian Islands, Kamchatka, the Kuril Islands and throughout the Sea of Okhotsk.[4] While they share some habitat with horned puffins (F. corniculata), the range of the tufted puffin is generally more eastern. They have been known to nest in small numbers as far south as the northern Channel Islands, off southern California.[5] However, the last confirmed sighting at the Channel Islands occurred in 1997.[6]

Tufted puffins typically select islands or cliffs that are relatively inaccessible to predators, close to productive waters, and high enough that they can take to the air successfully. Ideal habitat is steep but with a relatively soft soil substrate and grass for the creation of burrows.[7]

During the winter feeding season, they spend their time almost exclusively at sea, extending their range throughout the North Pacific and south to Japan and California.


Adult outside nesting burrow on the Kuril Islands


Breeding takes place on isolated islands: over 25,000 pairs have been recorded in a single colony off the coast of British Columbia. The nest is usually a simple burrow dug with the bill and feet, but sometimes a crevice between rocks is used instead. It is well-lined with vegetation and feathers. Courtship occurs through skypointing, strutting, and billing. A single egg is laid, usually in June, and incubated by both parents for about 45 days. Fledglings leave the nest at between 40 and 55 days.

Adult swimming at the Henry Doorly Zoo


Tufted puffins feed almost exclusively on fish, which they catch by diving from the surface. Adults may also feed on squid or other invertebrates. Feeding areas can be located far offshore from the nesting areas. Puffins can store large quantities of small fish in their bills and carry them to their chicks.

Predators and threats

Tufted puffins are preyed upon by various avian raptors such as snowy owls, bald eagles and peregrine falcons, and mammals like the Arctic fox. Foxes seem to prefer the puffin over other birds, making the bird a main target. Choosing inaccessible cliffs and entirely mammal-free islands protects them from terrestrial predators while laying eggs in burrows is effective in protecting them from egg-scavengers like gulls and ravens.[2]

Relationship with humans

The Aleut and Ainu people of the North Pacific traditionally hunted tufted puffin for food and feathers. Skins were used to make tough parkas worn feather side in and the silky tufts were sewn into ornamental work. Currently, harvesting of tufted puffin is illegal or discouraged throughout its range.[7]

The tufted puffin is a familiar bird on the coasts of the Russian Pacific coast, where it is known as toporik (топорик) – roughly meaning "axe-bill" –, while the other puffins are collectively called túpiki (ту́пики) in Russian. F. cirrhata is the namesake of one of its main breeding sites, Kamen Toporkov ("Tufted Puffin Rock") or Ostrov Toporkov ("Tufted Puffin Island"), an islet offshore Bering Island.

Conservation status in Puget Sound

Many rules and regulations have been set out to try to conserve fishes and shorebirds in Puget Sound. The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) of Washington State has created aquatic reserves surrounding Smith and Minor Islands.[8] Over 36,000 acres (150 km2) of tidelands and seafloor habitat were included in the proposed aquatic reserve. Not only do these islands provide the necessary habitat for many seabirds such as tufted puffins and marine mammals, but this area also contains the largest kelp beds in all of Puget Sound. In addition, Protection Island reserve has also been off limits to the public to aid marine birds in breeding. Protection Island contains one of the last two nesting colonies of puffins in Puget Sound, and about 70% of the tufted puffin population nests on this island.[9]


  1. ^  
  2. ^ a b c Gaston, A. J.; Jones, I. L. (1998). The Auks: Alcidae. Oxford: Oxford University Press.  
  3. ^ Simpson, D. P. (1979). Cassell's Latin Dictionary (5 ed.). London: Cassell Ltd. p. 883.  
  4. ^ Artyukhin, Yu.B.; Burkanov, V.N. (1999). Morskiye ptitsy i mlekopitayushchiye Dalnego Vostoka Rossii [Sea birds and mammals of the Russian Far East: A Field Guide] (in Russian). Мoscow: АSТ Publishing. p. 215. 
  5. ^ McChesney, G. J.; Carter, H. R.; Whitworth, D. L. (1995). Reoccupation and Extension of Southern Breeding Limits of Tufted Puffins and Rhinoceros Auklets in California. Waterbird Society. 
  6. ^ McChesney, G. J.; Carter, H. R. (2008). Studies of Western Birds 1. pp. 213–217. 
  7. ^ a b Stirling, K. (2000). "Fratercula cirrhata". Animal Diversity Web. University of Michigan Museum of Zoology. Retrieved 2012-08-22. 
  8. ^ "Smith & Minor Islands Aquatic Reserve Management Plan" (pdf). Seattle, WA: Washington State Department of Natural Resources. 2010. 
  9. ^ Chew, J. (2010-11-04). "DNR ceremony seals Protection Island Aquatic Reserve". Peninsula Daily News. 

Further reading

  • "National Geographic" Field Guide to the Birds of North America ISBN 0-7922-6877-6
  • Seabirds, an Identification Guide by Peter Harrison, (1983) ISBN 0-7470-1410-8
  • Handbook of the Birds of the World Vol 3, Josep del Hoyo editor, ISBN 84-87334-20-2
  • "National Audubon Society" The Sibley Guide to Birds, by David Allen Sibley, ISBN 0-679-45122-6
  • Stirling, Katie. ADW: Fratercula cirrhata. University of Michigan, Michigan, USA.

External links

  • University of Michigan Puffin Site
  • A site about puffins
  • [1] Proposal of Smith and Minor Islands
  • [2] DNR Celebration of Approval
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.