Where Do Puffins Live? [Puffins Species and Their Habitat]

Iceland has the most puffins in the world; 60% of them breed there. They can also be found in North America, from Newfoundland and Labrador to the Northeastern States. In Europe, some of the preferred locations where they love to build their nest to survive are northern Russia, Greenland, northward to Iceland, and the Brittany Coast of France.

However, their habitat varies based on the time of year. For example, puffins head out to the open ocean in the winter but remain near their habitats all summer.

Puffins prefer safe vicinities such as islands, rocky slopes, and cliffs. Read along for more information about their habitat, distribution, and breeding grounds. 

How Many Species of Puffins Live in the World?

According to the World Wild Life Organization, there are four species of puffins. Following are the details of these species.

Puffin Species

1. Atlantic Puffin

Belonging to the Auk family, the Atlantic puffin is a black and white seabird with a thick, multicolored bill and a pearly face.

2. Horned Puffin

Like the Atlantic puffin, the horned puffin is a pelagic seabird belonging to the Auk family. The bird nests in colonies and hunts for food by diving into the ocean.

3. Tufted Puffin

Also known as the crested puffin, the tufted puffin is a medium-sized seabird recognized by its yellow tufts and red bills. 

4. Rhinoceros Auklet

Rhinoceros Auklet
Rhinoceros Auklet

The rhinoceros auklet is closely related to puffins, although it doesn’t have a bill like puffins. The greyish seabird is a species of the genus Cerorhinca. 

Habitat and Distribution

a) Discover the Habitat of Puffins

Puffins migrate from one habitat to another as the seasons change. In winter, they move from the upper latitudes in the Northern Hemisphere towards the temperate regions within the Northern Hemisphere.

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The table describes the habitat of different species of puffins: 

Puffin SpeciesHabitatDescription of Habitat
Atlantic PuffinAtlantic OceanSea cliffs or rocky islands with sparse vegetation
Horned PuffinNorth Pacific OceanOpen ocean
Tufted PuffinNorth Pacific OceanLives at sea during the Winter and in coastal colonies in the Summer
Rhinoceros AukletPacific Coast, North AmericaForested islands or islands covered mainly in grasses

Do Puffins Live Only in The Arctic?

Puffins are found only in the Arctic zone, around sea cliffs and coastal areas covered with tundra and vegetation.

These black and white seabirds stay in the temperate and polar zones of the Arctic region. Their habitat ranges from Iceland and Greenland to Russia and Alaska. Puffins are also known to inhabit the remote Aleutian Islands. ~ Aurora Expeditions, Australia

Although the high Arctic wilderness is most suitable for these birds, they also reside along the coasts of Norway and Scotland. Sometimes, they move further south, towards the British aisles and Maine in the US.

Despite their wide distribution, the seabirds do not live in the Southern hemisphere, so they are not found in Antarctica.

What Country Has the Most Puffins?

puffin

The largest number of Puffins are found in Iceland. Research suggests that about 60% of the world’s population of puffins lives in Iceland.

Puffins are known for nesting in large colonies. The largest puffin colony is found in the Westmann Isles of Iceland. It is estimated that 4 million individual birds were found in this region’s single colony of Atlantic Puffins.

Because of its cold climate, Iceland serves as the breeding ground for the Puffin population from early April until September every year.

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b) Distribution Range of the Puffin

Where do Breeding colonies live?

During the breeding season, puffins nest on coastal cliffs and offshore islands. The birds often reside in crevices among rocks or in caves in the soil. Sometimes, they nest in rabbit burrows.

They spend most of the year flying in large flocks called rafts. However, they returned to the colonies in late March or early April. ~ RSPB.org

Where do they live during the non-breeding season?

Puffins primarily lead solitary lives at sea when it is not the breeding season. However, puffins exhibit social behavior during the breeding season when residing on the coasts.

They engage in foraging and hunting in small groups and establish nesting grounds close to one another. 

Fun Fact: Breeding puffins have a grayish face with an orange and yellow bill, but in the nonbreeding season, their faces become darker, and they shrink slightly while shedding their yellow highlights. ~ PBS Organization

Where Do Puffins Go in The Winter?

puffin bird

Puffins are migratory birds that move towards the south in the winter season. They spend the winter in the North Atlantic Ocean.

In the United Kingdom, puffins swim toward the Atlantic Ocean in the Winter, while Atlantic Puffins in the Gulf of Maine migrate to the Georges Bank.

Sometimes, puffins breeding in the UK might stay in the North Sea or move south to the Bay of Biscay.

The migratory seabirds then move towards the shallower waters in Early spring before the breeding season starts.

3 Best Places to See the Puffin

Where is the Best Place to See the Puffin?  Here are the best places to capture puffins in their natural habitat:

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1. Canada

Bird watchers can spot Atlantic Puffins on small islands along the East Coast of Canada. Puffin colonies reside in Hudson Bay and the Hudson Strait. Their colonies extend north to Nova Scotia.

In the South, they are spotted in New Brunswick, where they live offshore in the Winter.

2. USA

Puffins are most commonly found in Maine, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire coastal areas.

The birds have a very limited breeding ground along the East Coast of the USA. Although the black and white seabird has been sighted occasionally as far south as Florida, puffins are least likely to be spotted below Massachusetts. 

In the Gulf of Maine, puffins primarily establish breeding colonies on small islands such as Eastern Egg Rock and Matinicus Rock.

3. Europe

Puffins are observed across several areas on the coastline of the United Kingdom. The largest population of Puffins resides in Northeast England, the Orkney Islands, and the North of Scotland.

The seabirds also nest in colonies on the Western Coast, from the Isles of Scilly to Wales, Ireland, and Northern Ireland. Sometimes, puffins are also spotted on the Western coast of Scotland.

FAQs

Are Puffins found on the coasts of Massachusetts and New Hampshire?

Yes, Atlantic Puffins are often found on the coasts of Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and along the coastal area of Maine.

Why did Puffins nearly disappear from Maine?

In the 1800s, the Atlantic Puffins nearly disappeared from Maine because of excessive egg hunting and collecting, which threatened their survival.

Do puffins live in Antarctica? Write a short targeted answer

No, puffins do not live in Antarctica. They are native to the northern hemisphere and do not inhabit the southern hemisphere, which includes Antarctica.

Conclusion

Puffins are fascinating creatures whose unique habitats and breeding colonies unfold across the coastal regions of the Northern Hemisphere.

These fascinating seabirds are most often seen at sea in their habitat, which spans the Atlantic and North Pacific oceans.

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