The Atlantic Puffin Fratercula arctica is one of four species of puffins and is the only one that lives on the North Atlantic Ocean. One of the most popular and well-known seabirds in Canada, its colourful features often appear on calendars and posters. In 1992 it was made the official bird of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. Most people know a puffin only when it is "dressed up" for the breeding season and would hardly recognize it in its plainer winter garb.
Fratercula means "little brother" or "friar," perhaps a reference to the puffin’s black and white dress. Puffins belong to the family of birds called the auks, or Alcidae; other members of the family are the Dovekie, murres, guillemots, the Razorbill, auklets, murrelets, and the extinct Great Auk. Auks are diving seabirds of the northern hemisphere and use their wings to propel themselves underwater in pursuit of prey such as small fish.
Upper left: adult Atlantic Puffin in breeding plumage. Upper right: adult Atlantic Puffin in winter plumage. Lower left: juvenile Atlantic Puffin. Lower right: adult Common Murre.
The familiar breeding adult has a striking orange, yellow, and bluish bill and matching bright orange feet. The bill is wide in profile and narrow side-to-side. A puffin’s greyish white face is decorated with fleshy yellow rosettes at the base of the bill and red rings and small bluish plates around the eyes. The upper parts, including the head, back, and wings, are black and contrast dramatically with the brilliant white underparts. The sexes look the same, although males tend to be slightly larger than females.