Do Puffins Migrate or Hibernate?

Yes, Puffins migrate. They migrate to the waters where fish are most available in north Canada’s Gulf of St. Lawrence and then head to the southeast, where they spend the rest of winters sleeping on waves.

It may give you surprise, the adult puffins spend eight months on the ocean waves in a state of hibernation. It has been a long since the struggles were made to track the migrating bird whose migration remained a mystery. Recent efforts proved successful, and the researchers came up with geolocators that told the routes of puffins during migration.

To know the areas where they head to and why they especially choose the area, you need to stay on the page till the end. It will help you know many hidden facts about the migration of puffins for reasons good enough.

Do Puffins Migrate or Hibernate?  Why Do They Migrate or Hibernate?

Puffins spend two-thirds of their year over the sea. Actually, they only come on land for mating and nesting.

Their awkward gait on land tells more of their comfort level at sea than on land. So yes, they do migrate and during their migration period, you could find them resting on the sea waves as if they are hibernating.

puffin bird

The bird has a special ability to drink salty ocean water and release excessive salt through supraorbital glands, which are located behind the eyes. This balancing helps them stay normal even with the intake of salty water. And from under the waves, they grab food nutrients to maintain health and energy.

According to a research article on puffin’s migration mechanism, the migration can be accounted for on various grounds. The patterns of migrations can vary due to genetic inheritance or cultural inheritance.

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This is by studying the timings, navigations and variety of routes. Moreover, the individual input also needs focus as there are possibilities that the individuals may have different migration routines and routes.

Annete Fayet, who is one of the authors of the study published in Current Biology, says that good habitat around the colony in winter and the population size becomes the driving force for the puffin to migrate.

The research Fayet has done has other outputs to be bundled down here:

  • The puffins with larger colonies migrate to farther areas to avoid competition and get enough food.
  • North American puffins migrate to shorter distances than their bigger northern European counterparts.
  • Puffins with shorter migration have improved breeding success than puffins with longer migration because longer migration is energy-consuming.


One of the reasons for puffin migration is the shift of seafood to colder waters further north. So, they move along for the food source.

Where Do Puffins Migrate to In the Winter?

The clowns of the sea, the elegant and colorful emperors of the seashores, maintain solitude in winter. They move to the sea and spend 6-8 months on the ocean waves. The results of puffin tracking through geolocators came out as follows:

  • In August, they migrated north, some to Greenland and some southwards towards France and Biscay.
  • In autumn, they moved northwards into the North Atlantic.
  • They migrated to the Mediterranean in winter before returning to the colony ~(Source).

Do Puffins Migrate from Iceland and The UK?

In the UK, puffin pairs exceed 5 lacs. They are found in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland. They are a species brave enough to spend winters in the North Atlantic before returning to the UK.

puffin bird

Iceland is home to a huge number of puffins. They are native to the place and are called Lundi in Icelandic. They have been declared the national birds of Iceland. Yet they migrate to the oceans in August and stay there till March.

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Where Do Puffins Migrate to From Ireland?

Let us first see where we can find puffins in Ireland. The places are:

  1. Inishbofin island
  2. Clare island
  3. Skellig islands
  4. Salty island
  5. Rathlin island

June and July are the best months for visitors to watch the puffin activities at their best. Puffins head across the Atlantic towards the east coast of Canada. This site helps them in hunting shoals of Capelin.

Where Do Puffins Go in The Summer?

As we have constantly been talking about the stay of puffins on islands for breeding, this is where they stay. Not on the ocean waves but on the islands for mating and nesting.

After spending a long time on the ocean waves, they return to their already-made burrows in pairs and take care of the egg together. The burrows help them stay protected from predators.

So basically, the summertime of puffins is the real productive period where they work on colony making.

Why Do Puffins Come Back to The Same Place Each Summer?

It is for the mating and breeding that they come back. Coming back to the same place is reflective of the strong bonding or, you say, pair bonding of the puffins.

They remain loyal to the same mate through and through. Another important thing that may remain in focus is that long migrations affect the breeding strength of the bird. More energy is consumed after long flying.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Do puffins fly?

Puffins have the dual capability of flying and swimming. Puffins fly swiftly. They are better at flying, as the penguins are better at swimming and can breathe underwater. Puffins fly by flapping their wings 400 times a minute which is wildly fast.

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Can you see puffins in winter?

Yes, you can, but for that, you have to track them far north, where they fly in search of food sources and spend 7-8 months on the ocean waves.

Do Atlantic puffins migrate?

Yes, the Atlantic puffins migrate in winter. They have a two-stop migration. One to Canada’s gulf of St. Lawrence, where the waters are fish rich.

Another is the open ocean off the southeast, where they spend the rest of the winters sleeping on the ocean waves.

What time of year do puffins migrate?

It is in August that they start migrating to the far north. The start of winter is the time of migration. The mating and breeding time is spring. The time they migrate stretches from August to March.


Puffin migration has multiple reasons, like the search for food and hibernation. The breeding season and sleeping on the ocean are interlinked to one. Longer migration affects breeding. Even the migration routes and routines vary according to a food source and population variables in puffin colonies.

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