Fratercula arctica


A small auk, puffins are familiar as the 'clowns' of the coast with their brightly coloured bills, bumpy landings and waddling walk. Puffins live in burrows in the short grass at the top of cliffs and feed on fish, such as sandeels, which they catch at sea by diving beneath the surface and using their wings to swim in pursuit. For most of the year puffins are out at sea, returning to land to breed. During the breeding season, displays of bill-knocking and ritualised walking will result in mating pairs producing one egg, which is laid at the end of the burrow. The chick remains in the burrow until it is independent and ready to go to sea.

How to identify

Unmistakeable: black above with a white belly and cheeks, massive, multicoloured bill and orange, webbed feet.

Where to find it

Nests on cliffs and islands at scattered locations around the coast of Scotland, northern England, south-west England and Wales.


When to find it

  • March
  • April
  • May
  • June
  • July
  • August

How can people help

Half of the UK population of puffins is restricted to just a few sites. Threatened by falling fish stocks (in particular, declining sandeel populations) and habitat loss, the survival of puffins and other seabirds depends on a healthy marine environment. The Wildlife Trusts are working with fishermen, researchers, politicians and local people towards a vision of 'Living Seas' where marine wildlife thrives. This work has recently had a massive boost with the passing of the Marine Bill, promising sustainable development of the UK's marine environment. Do your bit for our Living Seas by supporting your local Wildlife Trust.

Species information

Common name
Latin name
Fratercula arctica
Gulls and seabirds
Length: 26-29cm Wingspan: 55cm Weight: 400g Average Lifespan: 18 years
Conservation status
Classified in the UK as an Amber List species under the Birds of Conservation Concern review.