Do Puffin Birds Mate for Life?

Puffins do mate for life. They catch your interest by pecking their bills and showing affection. They are serious in relation to their partner and maintain a pair tie for life. Their mutual affection for the puffling is another proof of their strong bonding.

When you look closely at how they pair up, breed and take care of family members, you will know how humanly they behave. Let us see their partnership and family life together to understand their life patterns over the years.

Do Puffins Pair Bond?

Yes, puffins have this special feature of pair bonding. Pair bonding in animals amazes humans as it is a feature humans possess. But some birds and animals mate for life and pair bond with loyalty.

This bond helps them sustain through seasonal changes and bring up their puffling with each other’s support.

Puffins have their breeding start at the age of 5 usually. So before the breeding session, they have training in choosing breeding sites, finding a mate and finding nest sites.

Well, if you observe the body language of puffins, their gestures will let you know more about their living style and feelings.

Sometimes, you would see puffins returning from migration, and the male and female pair up even before landing. Once landed, they rub their beaks together, called billing.

The act of rubbing is like they stand in front of each other, bow their heads and rub the bills while shaking their faces rapidly back and forth. The colony members gather in a circle around them to chatter and show excitement. This is a courtship behavior which is evidence of the pair bond.

Here you can watch the below to learn more about their breeding time and physical changes.

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Do Puffin Birds Mate for Life?

Puffins mate for life; yes, they do. They are pretty rare in this feature and have certain indications which let the researchers know the fact.

  • They make their burrows in the soil or crevices of rocks with grass and feathers for the puffling.
  • They spend a big time on the ocean waves but return to the same burrow each year and meet each other.
  • They are involved in billing, which is a sign of showing love to the partner.

Here, in the below video, at the pair bonding of the two puffins while the female strives to stay bonded to the pair.

Do Atlantic Puffins Mate for Life?

Like all other puffins, Atlantic puffins also mate for life. They have burrows where the males stand and flick their heads side by side to attract the female. They grunt like a pig as well during this act of invitation.

Want to find mates among puffins?

Look for the pair which is rubbing and pecking the beaks together. There are more instances to see the pair bond of the puffins. Both the father and mother provide food to the puffling and take responsibility.

They work together to dive and bring fish for the puffling. On average, the puffin parents dive 276 times a day each one of them.

Why Do Puffins Rub Their Beaks Together?

Rubbing the beaks, the birds have a long history behind them. It is not alone the pecking, but they do it for different reasons like bill-cleaning and shaping the bill, which helps them catch the prey more aptly.

puffin mate for life

Danielle Whittaker, an evolutionary biologist at Michigan State University, studied these animal behaviors and said that the rubbing of beaks by the birds is more by a male to attract the female rather than any other male.

The preen oil, which is released by a gland, has odors that can help choose a mate for the puffin. Rubbing the beaks helps slather the chemical on the other bird’s beak.

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There is more about the birds and their features than we may know, says Christy Wails, a Ph.D. candidate studying avian ecology at Northern Illinois University.

It is when she studied the luminescent bills of the puffins. After an experiment of dropping UV light on the puffins’ beaks, they came to know of the glowing beaks of the puffins. The glow seemed a little but was more to attract the mate rather than being flashlights.

How Can You Tell the Difference Between A Male And A Female Puffin?

Well, if you look at a puffin, you could be mesmerized by the yellow, orange and bluish bill, which is wider at the start and narrows to the edges.

The upper parts, like the head, back and wings, are black, with the lower parts milky white, like the belly and area beneath the wings. Feet have the same bright, fruity orange color as that of the beak.

However, if you try to notice the difference between males and females, it can be identified by you if they stand closer without having big movements. The male partner is bigger in size than the female partner.


How do puffins mate for life?

Puffins mate for life by pair bonding. They stay loyal to the same partner over the years and after a long stay in ocean waves, they return to the same burrow and the same partner on the land.

They even collaborate when raising the puffling like a good father and mother who share the burden.

How do puffins show affection?

The most obvious and attractive way of affection is rubbing and tapping the beaks together. The males make piglike grunts to attract the female.

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The gait and standing style of the puffins are also quite predictive of their bonding when standing in a group. You could easily recognize the mates. 

Why do puffins look sad?

Another special feature of puffins is the totally changed look of the bird in two seasons. In winter, puffins almost shed off their colorful plumage of beaks and mascara-black eyes, which gives a sad outlook to the birds.

Do puffins cry?

Puffins do not cry but have different distinctive sounds, which can be deciphered as their behavioral responses. Among those sounds, there is one growling sound which seems alarming when they are under attack or threat of attack by an intruder.

Can you touch a puffin?

Generally speaking, puffins are not a danger to humans, and you can go near them. But I say that you may not touch a puffin because they are still wild animals and can be annoyed at your behavior. And the main thing is that you might damage the waterproof oily skin of their feathers by teaching them.


Puffins are mates for life and this special feature by nature has enabled them to grow as a population. Very rare would you find such behaviors in animals of long-term loyalty with their partner.

There is a cute courtship dance by the mates when they reunite after the journey from Oceanside. Breeding seasons begin and the mates do their best to take care of the egg and the puffling.

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