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Atlantic Puffin

Atlantic Puffin
Photo Information
Copyright: Peter van Zoest (PeterZ) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 5137 W: 166 N: 13121] (49139)
Genre: Animals
Medium: Color
Date Taken: 2013-08-05
Categories: Birds
Camera: Nikon D90, Sigma 135-400mm f/4.5-5.6 APO, Digital RAW
Exposure: f/5.6, 1/1000 seconds
Details: Tripod: Yes
More Photo Info: [view]
Photo Version: Original Version
Date Submitted: 2014-10-05 5:18
Viewed: 2393
Points: 38
[Note Guidelines] Photographer's Note
As promised another nice photo from Iceland.

The Atlantic Puffin or Common Puffin (Fratercula arctica) is a species of seabird in the auk family. It is the only puffin native to the Atlantic Ocean with two related species, the Tufted Puffin and the Horned Puffin, being found in the north eastern Pacific. Three subspecies have traditionally been recognized but size seems to be the only difference.

The Atlantic Puffin breeds in Iceland, Norway, Greenland, Newfoundland and many North Atlantic islands, and as far south as Maine in the west and the United Kingdom in the east. Its large population size and wide range means that the Atlantic Puffin is not considered to be endangered although there may be local declines in numbers. On land, it has the typical upright stance of an auk, with a black crown and back, pale grey cheek patches, white underparts, broad red and black beak and orange legs. Juveniles are similar in appearance to adults but have darker grey cheek patches and lack the brightly coloured bill and feet. Puffins from northern populations are typically larger than their counterparts in southern parts of the range. It is possible that these populations are separate subspecies, but this is disputed.

The Atlantic Puffin is a bird of cold northern seas for most of the year. It spends the autumn and winter in the open ocean, returning to land at the start of the breeding season in late spring. There it nests in clifftop colonies, digging a burrow in which a single egg is laid. The chick is mostly fed on whole fish and grows rapidly. After about six weeks it is fully fledged and makes its way at night to the sea. It paddles away from the shore and does not return to land for several years. Both adults and immature birds feed mainly on small fish which they catch while diving underwater, using their wings for propulsion.

Colonies are mostly on islands where there are no terrestrial predators but adult birds and newly fledged chicks are at risk of attacks from the air by gulls and skuas. Sometimes a thieving bird such as an Arctic Skua will harass a Puffin arriving with a beakful of fish, causing it to drop its catch. The striking appearance, large colourful bill, waddling gait and behaviour of this bird have given rise to nicknames such as "clown of the sea" and "sea parrot". It is the provincial bird for the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

The Atlantic Puffin is sturdily built with a thick-set neck and short wings and tail. It is 28 to 30 centimetres in length from the tip of its stout bill to its blunt-ended tail. The wingspan is 47 to 63 centimetres and on land it stands about 20 cm high. The male is generally slightly larger than the female, but they are coloured alike. The forehead, crown and nape are glossy black, as are the back, wings and tail. A broad black collar extends around the neck and throat. On each side of the head is a large, lozenge-shaped area of very pale grey. These face patches taper to a point and nearly meet at the back of the neck. The shape of the head creates a crease extending from the eye to the hindmost point of each patch giving the appearance of a grey streak. The eye looks almost triangular in shape because of a small, peaked area of horny blue-grey skin above it and a rectangular patch below. The iris is brown or very dark blue and there is a red orbital ring. The underparts of the bird, the breast, belly and undertail coverts, are white. By the end of the breeding season, the black plumage may have lost its shine or even taken on a slightly brownish tinge. The legs are short and set well back on the body giving the bird its upright stance on land. Both legs and large webbed feet are bright orange, contrasting with the sharp black claws.
The beak is very distinctive. From the side it is broad and triangular but it is laterally flattened and, viewed from above, is narrow. The half nearest the tip is orange-red and the base half is slate grey. There is a yellow chevron-shaped ridge separating the two parts and a yellow, fleshy strip at the base of the bill. At the joint of the two mandibles there is a yellow, wrinkled rosette. The exact proportions of the beak vary with the age of the bird. In an immature individual, the beak has reached its full length but it is not as broad as that of an adult. With time the bill deepens, the upper edge curves and a kink develops at its base. As the bird ages, one or more grooves may form on the red portion.

The characteristic bright orange bill plates and other facial characteristics develop in the spring. At the close of the breeding season, these special coatings and appendages are shed in a moult. This makes the beak appear less broad, the tip less bright and the base darker grey. The eye ornaments are shed and the eyes appear round. This winter plumage is seldom seen by humans because when they have left their chick, the birds head out to sea and do not return to land until the next breeding season. The juvenile bird is similar to the adult in plumage but altogether duller with a much darker grey face and yellowish-brown beak tip and legs.

After fledging, it will struggle to the water and will head out to sea and not return to land for several years. In the interim, each year it will have a broader bill, paler face patches and brighter legs and beak.

The Atlantic Puffin has a direct flight, typically 10 metres above the sea surface and higher over the water than most other auks. It mostly moves by paddling along efficiently with its webbed feet and seldom takes to the air.

It is typically silent at sea, except for the soft purring sounds it sometimes makes in flight. At the breeding colony it is quiet above ground but in its burrow makes a growling sound somewhat resembling a chainsaw being revved up.

Source: Wikipedia

ramthakur, Hotelcalifornia, williewhistler, anel, periko, iti, peter_stoeckl has marked this note useful
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ThreadThread Starter Messages Updated
To ramthakur: Icicles :))PeterZ 1 10-05 05:46
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Critiques [Translate]

Never tire of looking at this wonderful bird, Peter.
This is a beautiful picture, indeed.
BTW, what are those icicles like things in its bill?

Hello Peter - Very beautiful bird this "Puffin". Very attractive bill. Well captured with its food. Nice sharpness with well showed its natural habitat. Thanks for sharing. Regards and have a nice Sunday - Srikumar

hallo Peter
Super mooie en scherpe opname
ze doen het altijd goed met die mooie kop en snavel
Pracht plaat weer Peter om trots op te zijn ,want je gaat en ziet ze niet zomaar
gr lou

wonerful capture of pretty puffin in famous pose.
Congratulations Peter. Best wishes.

Peter, hello.
Love your detailed, highly educative and OUTSTANDING notes.
Your sigma 400mm on a tri-poded Nikon works well.
Great eye contact.
These are excellent swimmers too besides being FAST FLYERS.
Greetings of gratitude for sharing this beauty with us.
Mario in COLD COLD Canada.

Ciao Peter, great capture of fantastic bird, winderful colors, fine details and splendid sharpness, very well done, my friend, ciao Silvio

Boa tarde Peter
Fantastic capture of this wonderful bird my Friend.Great low POV,wonderful colors and excellent sharpness.Well done!
Thank You!
Best regargds

Hello Peter,
with a beak full of sand eels this is an informative and very attractive shot of the bird in it`s natural environment.
Nicely done,
Regards Les.

  • Great 
  • lousat Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 6595 W: 89 N: 15659] (65489)
  • [2014-10-05 13:58]

Hi Peter,fantastic portrait of this magnificent puffin,it's ready for a big dinner as i can see watching its beak so full of small fish,no comment about the quality always the best.Have a nice week and thanks,Luciano

  • Great 
  • anel Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 3053 W: 3 N: 8715] (40574)
  • [2014-10-06 1:10]

Hello Peter,
Always very cute these Puffins. This one had a very lucky catch..
Fine natural picture, well composed and with just the right sharpness.
Kind regards

  • Great 
  • Cobo Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 236 W: 1 N: 535] (5799)
  • [2014-10-06 3:50]

Very good picture Peter. Beautiful bird in a great moment, good sharpness and deep of field. Congratulation.

Hallo Peter,
Natuurlik onbekend aan my hier in die warmer gedeelte van die suidelike halfrond en wat 'n pragtige skepping. Pragtige kleure en tekstuur in hoogstaande gehalte. En 'n baie insiggewende meegaande nota. Welgedaan.

  • Great 
  • periko Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 70 W: 2 N: 145] (1487)
  • [2014-10-06 18:32]

Hi Peter
The vanished grass is a nice detail.
Clear image and fine details.


I like these puffins - they look soo sad and at the same time so funny - real sea-clowns!
You were lucky to see one with those fish in the beak.
good shot.
have a nice day

Hello Peter,
This is a species on which I would like to photograph with pleasure ....I have not had the opportunity to admire this lovely specie only in photos. I was amazed by the crowd of fish caught by this colorful bird.....

Razor details and sharp. Colour are fantastic against the blurred BG. Well done MF Peter.


  • Great 
  • iti Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 577 W: 0 N: 650] (7939)
  • [2014-10-12 8:23]

Hi Peter,
Another beautiful bird from the north. Excellent detail and focus. A marvellous capture from close range.
nice color of a "clown" and fantastic sharpness details.
Regards Jiri.

Hi Peter,
beautiful image, very lively, and skillfully composed. A great pleasure to see the brightly coloured, perfectly highlighted seabird with its beak filled with fresh fish emerging out of the green in front of a neutrally grey distance. Thank you! With best regards,

Hallo Peter,I just had a look at your bird collection, my compliments.Years ago I filmed the Puffins on the norwegian Island Runde,but I did not get them so close like you did.
A sharp and clear foto of this funny looking bird.
the unsharp grass gives the Puffin extra attention.
greetings from monique

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