Despite being so tiny, Iceland’s puffins are hard to miss. They are possibly the cutest bird in existence, behind the penguin and the blue-footed booby. They have all of the tell-tale signs of an adorable animal: they are colorful, inquisitive, and clumsy. Not only are they cute but they are fascinating birds. Before your next trip to Iceland, you should make it a priority to make a trip to see a puffin! Here are some fun facts and tips to keep in mind when interacting with puffins in Iceland.
Puffins can be found on the rocky cliffs situated near the ocean in Iceland. They are first and foremost sea dwelling birds (very fitting for the unofficial bird of Iceland). The official bird of Iceland is the Gyrfalcon, but every Icelander knows the puffin is secretly our favorite. The Puffins that are omnipresent along the shores of Iceland are the Atlantic Puffin.
The Atlantic Puffin is roughly 20cm (8in) tall when it stands on its legs, with a length of 28 to 30 cm (11 to 12 inches), and its wingspan is 47 to 63 centimeters (19 to 25 in). They are tiny birds, and if their bright orange beaks didn’t make them stand out so much, you might miss them.
These little guys eat primarily sand eels and other small fish. In the recent past, there have been issues with making sure local populations didn’t starve due to a change in diet. They are so small, and so accustomed to eating tiny fish that they couldn’t eat prey only slightly bigger than the sand eel.
Atlantic Puffins have powerful and colorful beaks. Their beaks are easily the Atlantic Puffins most recognizable feature. They have a bright orange and red hue which is easily their most distinctive feature. Most people are unaware, but the puffins shed part of their colorful beak after the mating season is over
Another fun fact about Iceland’s puffins is that while they roost on the open ocean when they return to land to rear their young, they live underground. That’s right! Our little friends burrow up to two meters into the ground, to protect their young, which are called “pufflings.” Has there ever been a more exciting name for a baby animal than a puffling? It almost sounds kind of like a pokemon!
The Atlantic Puffin is also unique in that it possesses a few characteristics that humans also tend to possess. Puffins raise one puffling at a time together. Both the mother and father puffins rear their young rather than one or the other. Also, Iceland’s puffins have social bonds with other birds of their species. This makes them seem very human in their interactions. Finally, puffins breed with the same mate for each mating season, making them monogamous animals.
If you find yourself in Iceland this summer, and you are curious to see a puffin in real life, you are in for a treat! Puffin colonies, which can number in the thousands, spring to life each summer on the jagged cliffs of Iceland. Tons of tours can bring you to some of the most popular Icelanic puffin colonies so you can see the little guys in action. Word to the wise: Puffins are very cautious and untrusting of humans. If you go, be slow and deliberate with your movements, as to not scare them off.
Iceland’s Adorable Atlantic Puffin – The Cutest Bird of the North
I’ll leave you with a few more fun facts about our brightly colored avian friends! Puffins can live up to 30 years in the wild. As pufflings, they spend 40 days after they are born in their burrows before they leave and head for the open ocean. Once in the ocean, they can spend up to three years on the water before returning to land. Lastly, my favorite fact surrounding puffins. Every August, communities around Iceland will go out at night and search for pufflings who got confused and failed to make it to the open ocean. Poor little things! The pufflings confuse the lights of cities with the moon and misjudge their flight path. So, families will walk around areas near the water at night collecting lost pufflings, shelter them overnight, and then in the morning throw them back towards the ocean! How sweet is that?