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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, 1/500 seconds
Details: Tripod: Yes
More Photo Info: [view]
Photo Version: Original Version
Theme(s): Animals feeding, part two [view contributor(s)]
Date Submitted: 2013-08-11 1:53
Viewed: 3387
Favorites: 1 [view]
Points: 68
[Note Guidelines] Photographer's Note
Hello friends of Treknature,
Returned from a two weeks holiday in Iceland with a lot of photos. I start with the most famous bird of Iceland, the Puffin.

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

Miss_Piggy, ramthakur, Hotelcalifornia, kinglove, maaciejka, CeltickRanger, anel, pierrefonds, Cobo, Alex99, marius-secan, cobra112, Hormon_Manyer has marked this note useful
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Critiques [Translate]

Wow Peter, what a marvellous portrait of this Puffin with its mouth filled with fish!
It has to go to my favourites!
A perfect head-and-shoulders portrait of this character, needle-sharp, and excellent exposure.
Thanks for sharing. Best regards.

  • Great 
  • lousat Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 6595 W: 89 N: 15659] (65489)
  • [2013-08-11 2:13]

Hi Peter,i'm happy to know that you been in Iceland,one my dream for the futures trips.Surely you have a lot of fantastic pics to show us now,and the first is really fantastic,a lot of fish on the beak of this puffin,and a spectacular portrait whit the best quality of details and colors,i like it!!! Have a nice Sunday and thanks,Luciano

Hi Peter,
Che scatto meraviglioso, da copertina di rivista ornitologica. Complimenti.

Hi Peter
Wow, such a great portrait!I am amazed by the clarity and sharpness of the fish from bird's beak. With some knowledge, one can guess the species.

Hello Peter,
A perfect catch with fine details and clarity.

After having seen Dr Ahmet's picture of this unique bird some days ago, it is a great pleasure to see another, Peter. You had told Ahmet about your impending trip to Iceland and here you are with a masterpiece from it.
Your portrait of this Puffin is quite different but much more appealing in that you have shot it with its mouth full of food. The portraiture is at its best without being over-sharp or over-saturated and the dark background creates a very appealing contrast with the main subject.
Looking forward to many more from your Iceland trip.

Hi Peter,
Wohh,..What a magnificent portrait of this Puffin.What a beautiful story I can imagine.Great composition and framing.
I think you are very proud to capture this excellent moment.
Great natural color and sharpness.Really love this pic.
Thanks for sharing.


Very nice portrait with great details!

Hello Mr.Peter,
No doubt,a beautiful picture.Tiny fishes in his mouth made it attractive and natural.How can I ignore such splendid BG which helped to concentrate on the subject.Nice light and colour.Like it.
Thanks for sharing,
Kind regards,

Hi Peter
這很特殊相片 有著繪畫的幾何圖形
層次感超強 不經意看很抽象
但仔細一看卻是實物體 尤其是那些小魚都很清晰
照相的最高境界 謝謝分享

hallo Peter
Weer terug en zeker wel lekker gehad
Heel andere plek ,dus ook andere foto's
zoals deze
Super scherpe opname veel details en prachtige kleuren
bedankt weer
gr lou

Hi Peter,
what a lunch you have captured!! Excellent. Perfect portrait. Really good sharpness and details.
Thanks for sharing,

  • Great 
  • siggi Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 3097 W: 109 N: 12399] (52850)
  • [2013-08-11 11:03]

Hallo Peter,
a very good portrait of this marvellous Puffin .Impressive details, marvellous colours, an excellent visual Impact.Regards Siggi

  • Great 
  • IronM Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 144 W: 3 N: 345] (2608)
  • [2013-08-11 11:27]

Hi Peter,
what a perfection,
amazing portrait, outstanding details everywhere ,
wonderful colors, composition !
Congratulations !
Best regards !

hallo Peter,
amazing portret of this wonderful bird! congrats!

Hello Peter

You was at the best place the best moment to
capture in portrait photo this Atlantic Puffin
with as much fishes on his beak giving another
dimension to the portrait photo, TFS


  • Great 
  • KOMSIS Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 820 W: 0 N: 2419] (10674)
  • [2013-08-12 5:21]

Hallo Peter,
Fabulous nice work ..
Very nice presentation of this Atlantic Puffin portrait in good sharpness, details and fine natural colours. Good DOF.
Best wishes,

Hello Peter,
Excellent photograph of Atlantic Puffin, excellent sharpness and details, excellent composition, excellent background and outstanding lighting.
Thanks for sharing,

  • Great 
  • anel Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 3053 W: 3 N: 8715] (40574)
  • [2013-08-12 12:07]

Hello Peter,
These birds will always be a winner and this one is too cute with its numerous small fishes in his beak. I also can see two people in his eyes, one must be the photographer :-).
Nicely decentred composition and a perfect blurred background. Well done!
Kind regards

  • Great 
  • tuslaw Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 2754 W: 282 N: 4931] (19883)
  • [2013-08-12 19:02]

Hello Peter,
Awesome shot of this gorgeous bird. To capture it with it's mouth stuffed full of minnows was an added bonus. I love their sad looking eyes and vivid colors. I can only imagine how thrilled you were to be able to capture such a unique image. Great work!!

Hi Peter,
a really wonderfull portrait of this beautiful puffin. I could see puffins in scottland but could not approach them as you could here.

Hello Peter
Superb portrait! The caught fish make it even better.Excellent composition, good detail, nice eye contact.
regards yiannis

Hi Peter,

The bird is well placed in the frame. The close-up point of view is showing the details and colours of thehead of the Atlantic Puffin. The good luminosity is giving nice tints to the colours. Have a nice day.


  • Great 
  • Cobo Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 236 W: 1 N: 535] (5799)
  • [2013-08-14 7:02]

Hi Peter! Just great picture and moment here with this bird! Congratulation.

  • Great 
  • Alex99 Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 4072 W: 133 N: 7096] (23735)
  • [2013-08-14 7:12]

Hi Peter.
Great trip and so great Iceland trophies. Simply fantastic exposure, clarity of the image and details of the bird and fishes in the beak. I am also impressed with nice framing of the bird image. Bravo. Excellent job.

Fantastic portrait of this interesting bird. I hope I will meet it some day.

a great portrait of Atlantic Puffin,Peter
happy Feast of the Assumption

  • Great 
  • iti Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 577 W: 0 N: 650] (7939)
  • [2013-08-15 10:01]

Hi Peter,
Fantastic portrait of a beautiful and famous bird on the north.
Regards Jiri.

Bom dia Peter!
Fantastic portrait my Friend.A dream pic for any photographer.Superb colours, impressive sharpness and clarity.Congrats!
Thank You
Have a good weekend!
Best regards

perfect portrait, TFS Ori

Ciao Peter, fantastic portrait, amazing details, splendid sharpness and wonderful colors, very well done, my friend, ciao Silvio

Fantastic subject and fantastic portrait Peter!
The composition, the colours and the sharpness are excellent!

Ciao Peter. Great time for the great portrait! Colours and light very good and perfect management of light. Razor details.


Hi Peter,
Fantastic portrait, greatly composed pic, awesome details on the plumage. Marvellous moment when her (his?) beak is full of fishes to give to the youngsters. Excellent job, bravo!
Best regards, László

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