Magazine article International Wildlife

Puffin Talk

Magazine article International Wildlife

Puffin Talk

Article excerpt

Packed together in dense breeding colonies, these social seabirds communicate in all sorts of ways

They arrive on land from the great unknown vastness of the North Atlantic, where they live from mid-August to mid-April. Perhaps clued in by the changing diurnal cycle, or even by the barely perceptible rise in the temperatures of wind and water, thousands upon thousands of Atlantic puffins--one of four puffin species, all members of the auk family--fly, paddle and float to remote seaside colonies on both sides of the ocean.

First, a few advance scouts appear. Then raft after raft of puffins materialize just offshore, a veritable armada of dumpy, tuxedoed birds with tangerine feet, Day-Glo bills and tails that look as if they had an encounter with a carving knife. The birds descend on places like the Faeroe Islands, on the great cliffed isles off Scandinavia and as in these images, on the Shiant Islands in Scotland's Outer Hebrides and on Vestmannaeyerjar (the Westmann Islands) of Iceland. There the adults breed, usually with a partner kept for many years or life, and if lucky, raise a single chick.

Compared to other gatherings of birds, a puffin colony is surprisingly quiet. …

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