What Do Puffins Eat?


Quick Answer

Most of a puffin's diet consists of fish, preferred varieties of which include herring, capelin, sand eels and hake. Puffins also supplement their diets with zoo plankton, and often resort to eating crustaceans during the winter.

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Full Answer

Puffins are excellent swimmers, using their wings to stroke through the water, and spend most of their lives on the sea. When they aren't swimming, they are resting on the waves or diving for food. Puffins are able to dive to depths of up to 200 feet and remain underwater for periods of 20 to 30 seconds at a time. They are very efficient at catching fish, and are known for their unique ability to hold many fish in their bills at one time. This is due to the structure of their bills, which consist of small, spikey spines on the roof of their mouths that help grip each fish while still allowing the bird to open its mouth and catch more. Puffins, on average, catch about 10 fish per dive.

Puffins' ability to catch so many fish at once allows them to bring more food back to their young. Every spring and summer, puffins form breeding colonies on the coasts, where they build nests. Each puffin pair cares for a single egg, and alternate between incubating it and retrieving fish. Puffins are found in the Pacific northeast, the North Atlantic, and the west coasts of Europe and northern Africa. The most recognized species of puffin is the Atlantic puffin. The other three species include the Horned puffin, Tufted puffin and the Rhinoceros Auklet.

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