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Tufted Puffins, Birds With “Do”s

Posted by Greg on April 4, 2012

Tufted Puffin. Photo by Jeff Foote (NOAA Photo Library)

Here’s a great bit of news for those who want to see puffins but can’t go to Newfoundland or Europe. They’re coming to Oregon! Cannon Beach no less! According to the Coast Explorer, “Each spring, colorful Tufted Puffins return to Cannon Beach’s Haystack Rock to lay eggs and raise their chicks, offering the Northwest’s most accessible location to see nesting puffins. Throughout the spring and summer months, the Haystack Rock Awareness Program is on the beach at Haystack Rock offering interpretive information about the rock and the habitat it provides for intertidal creatures and birds. The program offers spotting scopes focused on nesting Tufted Puffins to offer visitors a look at the colorful birds.” This is definitely going on my to-do list.

Misty Morning at Haystack Rock

The Seattle Audubon Society tells us, “Tufted Puffins can be found in many coastal habitats adjacent to the Washington coast and elsewhere in the northern Pacific, with the exception of estuaries. They breed in colonies on islands with steep, grassy slopes or on cliff tops.

Tufted Puffin (Photo:Mike Boylan/PD-USgov-NOAA) Nice "do"

Winter habitat is well offshore, in mid-ocean.They dive and swim underwater, using their wings to paddle and their feet to steer their way through schools of small fish, which they catch in their bills. They can be seen carrying fish crosswise in their bills (sometimes 12 or more), which they take back to their young.

Tufted Puffins (Fratercula cirrhata) are a Northern Pacific sea bird. They are found along the Pacific Rim from the islands of Japan to Central California. Their average height is 15.5 inches, and these puffins have a relatively short wingspan. They are a stocky bird and need a running start to take off. Flight is difficult for them, but their wings aid them in swimming. They carry fish for their young to the nest in their bills, but they eat their own meals while under water.

The Alaska SeaLife Center explains: “During the summer breeding season, adults have dark bodies and white faces. Their legs are orange and their large triangular shaped bill is red-orange, with a buff or olive green plate at the top. The Tufted Puffin is distinguished by the long, straw colored tufts that curve backward from their red-ringed eyes. In the winter, they shed that buffy bill sheath and plumes and their face becomes dusky.”

I haven’t been to Cannon Beach, Oregon, in a while. Now seems like a good time to go, and what a great excuse to get away to the beach!

Happy coastal bird watching!

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2 Responses to “Tufted Puffins, Birds With “Do”s”

  1. Gunta said

    I took a picture of a Puffin on the sea stacks in Bandon. My lens couldn’t reach it for a better shot, but you can clearly make out the red bill and feet. Volunteers also have scopes set up to observe them at the Coquille Point parking lot.

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