Are Puffins Endangered?

Yes, puffins are one of the endangered birds. However, we cannot claim them as critically endangered. It is the Atlantic Puffin which has been red-listed as an endangered bird due to the adverse changes in the environment. After being listed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, they are red-listed.   

The reasons behind the prospective extinction of the puffins are more than one. Knowing how the puffins’ number is declining and at what speed, we can look for ways to join hands with the conservation centers for their survival.

Let us ponder the following facts and queries to understand the situation more clearly.

Why Are Puffins Endangered?

The highlighted threat to the puffins is adverse changes in the environment. But this alone cannot define the actual hazards to the life of puffins. Following are the areas which affect the life of puffins:

1. Human Hunters

Hunting by humans has become a hazard to puffins as in some areas like Iceland and the Faroe Islands, smoked Puffin is a favorite meal.

Not only are there people who are working for the survival of the puffins, but the perishers are also in big numbers to disappoint the efforts of the survival makers.

2. Vulnerable Breeding Sites

During the breeding seasons, the puffins hide in burrow nests on cliffs to stay safe from predator birds. They are successful but still face the danger of mammals like foxes. 

3. Pollution

Oil spilling on the ocean is also a big danger zone for the puffins as they live near the open ocean. In 1967, after the Torrey Canyon Oil Spill, a huge number of sea birds died, among which puffins were in a large number.

4. Availability of Herring and Fish

Puffins feed mainly on small fish, thus, are affected by their change in number and distribution. The scarcity of small fish lets the chicks of puffins starve to death.

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The same cause leads to the simultaneous issue running side by side. It is the climate.

5. Climate change

Unexpected climate change is causing severe storms in the sea, washing away sea birds. Moreover, global warming is leading to the death of small fish, which devoid the puffins of their food. 

Are All Puffins Endangered?

Having a broader vision, we cannot straightforwardly claim puffins are endangered. First, it is because not all species of bird are endangered. Second, the species which are endangered vary in number in different regions.

puffin bird

So, it is the Atlantic Puffin that is vulnerable and can also be red listed in some regions. It is the bird of the North Atlantic Ocean.

The Atlantic Puffin has its own unique and complex movement patterns. It travels alone and goes pretty far to search for food and bring it back to the puffling. The young one starts the same practice on its time of flight.

Although the serious threats are listed above, still the main points are to be mentioned regarding the survival of the Atlantic Ocean:

  • Bycatch
  • Overfishing
  • Invasive predators
  • Oil spill
  • Hunting for human consumption
  • Offshore energy consumption
  • Climate change

How Do Humans Affect Puffins?

Sadly enough, humans have been seen as one of the biggest threats to puffins’ lives. It is not that you would find people hunting puffins as this area is almost under control by conservationists. But human activities indirectly happen at the cost of a puffin’s life.

  1. Oil spilling is a result of manufacturing done by people
  2. Overfishing causes the shortage of sea life that a puffin eats.
  3. Thermal mixing and extreme weather, which lead to climate change, cause the death of hundreds of small fish. This troubles the puffins to feed their pufflings.
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What Country Has the Most Puffins?

It is Iceland, where almost half of the no population of puffins live. The Westman Islands can claim to have the biggest population of puffins.

You can find hundreds of thousands of burrows in the soil of the islands.

puffin bird

These host over 20 % of the total number of puffins worldwide. The puffins come down in late summer for the breeding of their offspring.

The following places in Iceland are visiting sites for puffin lovers:

  • Westfjords
  • Hornbjerg
  • Nature Reserve Park of Hornstrandir

The area was once famous for Icelanders eating puffins. But now, they are constantly being harvested. Even the children work to find out the offspring for their safety.

How Many Puffins Are Left in The World?

According to the last recorded data, the estimated number of puffins left is mentioned per species.

Type of PuffinNumber of Puffins left
Atlantic Puffin12-14 million individuals
Horned Puffin800,000 individuals
Tufted Puffin2.3 – 3.5 million individuals

Atlantic Puffin being red-listed as endangered animal, 7,400,000 – 8,240,000 mature individuals are present with a decreasing population. Europe’s population size is estimated to have decreased by 68% over the past 50 years.

Is It Legal to Kill a Puffin?

Yes, but only Iceland offers the opportunity, as they have a long-lasting tradition of eating puffin for breakfast with porridge. The hunting season has strict laws to follow with its own perks and advantages.

Hunting season is different for the Atlantic Ocean as you are supposed to follow months. For example, in Jagdreisen Fabrig, puffin hunting is offered as follows:

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Active season: April 10th to 25th

How Can We Help Puffins from Extinction?

Well, the protection measures include many. A purpose-built fence is a strong step to keep the puffins safe from predators like mice. Their eggs and young ones would be safer with this inclusion.

Single-use plastic must be avoided as it has been observed that puffins are feeding their babies with pieces of plastic, thinking it to be fish food.

Carbon footprint reduction must take place. What does that mean? It means the activities which involve the release of greenhouse gasses. As a result of this, the waters are warming.

Buy sustainably caught fish for cooking to measure the amount of fish consumption. This may help to overfish.


When did puffins become endangered?

Originally, the problem dates back to the early 2000s, which emerged more due to hunting fever in Iceland. The Atlantic Puffin was red-listed by IUCN as vulnerable in 2018.

How rare is it to see a puffin?

Well, if you aim for the right location and time, you will likely see a puffin easily.

In Europe, they nest south to the Brittany Coast of France and northwards to Iceland, Greenland, and Northern Russia.

Most of the world’s puffins are found in Iceland, where sixty per cent of the population breeds.

Are puffins friendly?

Unlike many other sea birds, puffins seem to be curious about humans and do not turn into an attacking mode. You can sometimes try to crawl near them.


As experts predict, the UK could lose up to 8 million puffins in the next 50 years. This number can find you in despair as you would lose a strong and wonderful sea creature.

Although it is the Atlantic Puffin only which is near the line of endangered species, you cannot keep calm. The problem may increase and worsen if we won’t join hands in saving the puffins.

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